As a business owner, it’s inevitable that you will face minor conflicts and disputes at some point. Whether it’s a client who refuses to pay a bill, an independent contractor who fails to fulfill the terms of their agreement, or a vendor who stiffs you on an order, dealing with such issues is a simple fact of doing business.

However, given the time and expense involved, filing a lawsuit in civil court to resolve such minor disputes typically isn’t worthwhile, especially if you are only trying to recover a few thousand dollars. And taking the matter to a collections agency usually isn’t a viable option either, since average fees run between 25% to 50% of the total amount recovered. 

If you can’t resolve the dispute privately, taking the case to small claims court may be your best option. Small claims courts are specifically designed to resolve relatively low-collar cases quickly and inexpensively, without the need to observe the complex formalities of traditional court proceedings, and without incurring costly legal fees.

If you are considering taking a case to small claims court, here are a few answers to some basic questions about the process.

What types of cases are resolved in small claims court? 

Small claims courts are real courts, and a judgment issued by a small claims court is just as binding and enforceable as one made in a traditional civil court. Small claims court can be a quick and inexpensive way for your business to collect on unpaid debts and resolve contractual disputes with clients, vendors, and other companies. However, you can only take your case to a small claims court if the money you’re seeking to collect is below a certain amount, which is known as the court’s jurisdictional limit. 

These limits are different for each state, with some as low as $2,000 and others as high as $25,000, so be sure to review our state’s jurisdictional limit before filing your claim. Additionally, be aware that no state allows for small claims court cases involving divorce, guardianship, name changes, bankruptcy, or to seek an injunction against another individual. These cases all require you to file a lawsuit in state civil court.

Where should I file my small claims lawsuit?

If the other party does business or lives in our state, the law typically requires you to file your lawsuit in the small claims court district closest to that person’s residence or business headquarters. In some cases, you also may be able to file in the district where a legal agreement was signed or the dispute in question occurred. Check with the local small claims clerk for more detailed information.

Note that if the other party you are looking to sue has no business or other contact within our state, you’ll likely have to file your case in the state where the individual lives or does business. That said, unless the other party lives in a nearby state, out-of-state small claims lawsuits can be cost prohibitive due to travel expenses, so be sure to factor in the cost of traveling before you file your claim.

How does the small claims court process work?

First, let’s get clear on some terminology. The person who initiates the claim is the plaintiff, and the person who is being sued is the defendant. The process begins when the plaintiff files a statement of claim with the county or district where the case will be held. You can typically get all of the necessary paperwork for filing your claim from our local clerk of court website. You’ll also need to pay court fees, but they’re typically small, ranging from $20 to $200. There are also now apps that will help you file your small claims court case.

Once filed, the court may schedule an initial pretrial conference and/or order the parties to mediation. If the case can’t be resolved via mediation, the court will set a trial date, which will typically be a month or so from the time the claim was filed.

Small claims procedures vary by state and district, but in general, the hearings are fairly informal and don’t involve complicated legal procedures or strict rules of evidence. That said, you still need to prepare and present your case before the judge. Be sure to bring all of the documentation needed to help prove your case, such as contracts, invoices, photos of damages, copies of emails, and/or sales receipts. Some states also allow you to call witnesses.

One of the biggest advantages of small claims court is the time it takes for your case to be decided. Unlike traditional civil court, where cases can drag out for months or even years, a small claims judge will typically issue judgment on the spot, once both sides have presented their arguments and evidence.

Do I need an attorney?

Small claims court is designed to be easy to navigate, without the need for an attorney. Indeed, avoiding costly attorney’s fees is one of the primary benefits of these courts. For this reason, some states even prohibit lawyers from being present.

Of course, if you are going to file a case in small claims court and you are a Family Business Lawyer client, you should definitely call and discuss your strategy with us first, and we can advise you about how to proceed, and/or assist with collecting a judgment.

How do I collect a judgment?

Unfortunately, the court won’t collect your money for you. If you win your case and are awarded a judgment, unless the defendant agrees to pay you or you both agree to a payment plan, you may have to go back to court to get a lien on the defendant’s property or have the court order a wage garnishment.

As your Family Business Lawyer™, we can offer you support and guidance on the best ways to collect on your judgment to ensure you get all the money you are owed.

Can I appeal my case if I lose?

In many states, the plaintiff cannot appeal if he or she loses. If the defendant loses, he or she can generally file an appeal, and if it’s accepted, a new trial will be held in a higher court. Upon appeal, the small claims court trial is completely negated, as if it never happened. 

We’re Here If You Need Us

As your Family Business Lawyer™, we can help you decide whether or not to take your particular dispute to small claims court, as well as help you prepare your case. And while you likely won’t need us during the trial, we’re here to support you in whatever way you might require, providing you with the best chance to win your case and collect on your judgment. Contact us today to learn more.

This article is a service of Sahmra A Stevenson, Family Business Lawyer. We offer a complete spectrum of legal services for businesses and can help you make the wisest choices on how to deal with your business throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a LIFT Start-Up Session™ or a LIFT Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule. 

Because estate planning involves actively thinking about and planning for frightening topics like death, old age, and crippling disability, many people put it off or simply ignore it all together until it’s too late. Sadly, this unwillingness to face reality often creates serious hardship, expense, and trauma for those loved ones you leave behind. 

To complicate matters, the recent proliferation of online estate planning document services, such as LegalZoom®, Rocket Lawyer®, and Trustandwill.com, may have misled you into thinking that estate planning is a do-it-yourself (DIY) affair, which involves nothing more than filling out the right legal forms. However, proper estate planning entails far more than filling out legal forms. 

In fact, without a thorough understanding of how the legal process works upon your death or incapacity, along with knowing how it applies specifically to your family dynamics and the nature of your assets, you’ll likely make serious mistakes when creating a DIY will or trust. And the worst part is that these mistakes won’t be discovered until you are gone—and the very people you were trying to protect will be the ones stuck cleaning up the mess you created just to save a few bucks. 

Estate planning is definitely not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Even if you think your particular situation is simple, that turns out to almost never be the case. To demonstrate just how complicated estate planning can be, last week in part one, we highlighted the first five of 10 of the most common estate-planning mistakes, and here we wrap up the list with the remaining five mistakes.

6. Not Updating Beneficiary Designations

In addition to reviewing and updating your core estate planning documents like your will, trust, and power of attorney, it’s crucial that you also update the documentation for your other assets, especially those with beneficiary designations. Some of your most valuable assets, like 401(k)s, IRAs, and life insurance policies, do not transfer via a will or trust. 

Instead, these assets have beneficiary designations that allow you to name the person (or persons) you’d like to inherit the asset upon your death. Oftentimes, people forget to change their beneficiary designations to match their estate planning goals, which can lead to disaster. For example, if you get remarried and forget to update your 401(k), your ex-spouse from 20 years ago could end up inheriting your retirement savings.

Additionally, some people assume that because they’ve named a specific heir as the beneficiary of their IRA in their will or trust that there’s no need to list the same person again as beneficiary in their IRA paperwork. Because of this, they leave the IRA beneficiary form blank or list “my estate” as the beneficiary. But this is a major mistake—and one that can lead to serious complications and expense for your loved ones.

It makes no difference who is listed as the beneficiary in your will or trust; you must list the person you want to inherit the asset in the beneficiary designation, or your heirs will have to go to court to claim the asset. 

And you should never name a minor child as a beneficiary of your life insurance or retirement accounts, even as the secondary beneficiary. If a child inherits assets, the assets become subject to control of the court until they reach the age of 18, and then, the assets are distributed outright without any protection or direction.

If you want a minor to inherit assets, you can create a special trust to hold the asset until the child comes of age, and name someone you trust to serve as a successor trustee to manage the assets until that time. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can support you to choose the appropriate trust for this purpose to ensure your child gets the maximum benefit from their inheritance.

7. Improper Execution
You could have the best estate planning documents in the world, but if you fail to sign them, or sign them improperly, they will fail. This might seem trivial, but we see it all the time. A loved one dies, their family brings their estate planning documents to us, and we can’t help them because the documents were either not signed or were signed improperly.

To be considered legally valid, certain estate planning documents like wills must be executed (i.e. signed, witnessed, and/or notarized) following very strict legal procedures. For example, many states require that you and every witness to your will must sign it in the presence of one another. If your DIY service doesn’t mention that condition (or you don’t read the fine print) and you fail to follow this procedure, the document can end up worthless.

8. Choosing The Wrong Executors Or Trustees
In addition to laws regarding execution, state laws are also very specific about who can serve in certain roles like executor, trustee, or financial power of attorney. In some states, for instance, the executor of your will must either be a family member or an in-law, and if not, the person you choose must live in the state. If your chosen executor doesn’t meet those requirements, he or she cannot serve.

Moreover, some states require the person you name as your executor to get a bond, which is like an insurance policy before he or she can serve. Such bonds can be difficult to get for someone who has a less-than-stellar credit score. If your executor cannot get a bond, it would be up to the court to appoint your executor, which could end up being someone you would never want managing your assets or a third-party professional, who could drain your estate with costly fees.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will guide you to choose the most appropriate and qualified executors and/or trustees to manage your estate and assets.

9. Unintended Conflict Between Family Members
Family dynamics are—to put it lightly—quite complex. This is particularly true for blended families, where spouses have children from previous relationships. If you try to go it alone using a DIY document service, you won’t be able to consider all of the potential areas where conflict might arise among your family members and plan ahead to avoid such disputes. After all, even the best set of documents will be unable to anticipate and navigate these complex emotional matters—but we can.

Every day we see families end up in lifelong conflict due to poor estate planning. Yet, we also see families brought closer together as a result of handling these matters the right way. When done right, the estate planning process is actually a major opportunity to build new connections within your family, and our lawyers are specifically trained to help you with that. 

In fact, preventing family conflict with proactive estate planning is our special sauce and one of the many reasons to work with us, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, rather than relying on DIY planning documents, which will not identify nor prevent unforeseen family disputes. 

10. Failing To Properly Name Guardians For Minor Children
If you are a mom or dad with children under the age of 18 at home, your number-one estate planning priority should be selecting and legally documenting both long and short-term guardians for your kids. Guardians are the people legally named to care for your children in the event something happens to you.

If you haven’t named guardians for your kids yet, use the link  below to find out how you can take care of this critical task right now. And if you’ve named guardians for your minor children in your will—even with the help of another lawyer—your kids could still be at risk of being taken into the care of strangers. 

For instance, if you’ve named guardians for your kids in your will, what would happen if you became incapacitated and were no longer able to care for them? Did you know that your will only becomes operative in the event of your death, and it would do nothing to protect your children in the event of your incapacity?

Or perhaps the guardians you named in your will live far from your home, so it would take them several days to get there. If you haven’t made legally-binding arrangements for the immediate care of your children, it’s highly likely that they will be placed with the authorities until those guardians arrive. 

And does anyone even know where you will is located and how to access it? How can they prove they are your children’s legal guardians if they can’t even find your estate plan?

These are just a few of the potential complications that can arise when naming legal guardians for your kids, whether in your will or as a stand-alone measure. And if just one of these contingencies were to occur, your children would more than likely be placed into the care of strangers. Sadly, we see this happen even to those parents who’ve worked with lawyers to name legal guardians for their children, and that’s because most lawyers simply don’t know what’s necessary for planning and ensuring the well-being and care of minor children.

However, as your Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we have been trained by the author of the best-selling book, Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly, and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents, on legal planning for the unique needs of families with minor children. As a result of this training, we offer a comprehensive system known as the Kids Protection Plan®, which is included with every estate plan we prepare for families with young children.

The Kids Protection Plan® was created by a nationally recognized attorney, who is a mom herself, to make 100% certain that her kids would always remain in the loving care of people she knows and trusts and never be raised by anyone she didn’t want. And now, you can put this same plan in place for your kids. 

While you should meet with us to put the full Kids Protection Plan® in place as soon as possible, protecting your children is such a critical and urgent issue, we’ve created a totally free website, where you can visit to get your plan started right now.

⇒ If you’ve yet to take any action at all, visit this easy-to-use and 100% FREE website, where you can take the first steps to create legal documents naming long-term guardians for your children. By doing this, you can ensure that should anything happen to you prior to creating your full estate plan, your kids would be cared for by the people you would want in exactly the way you would want.

After you’ve completed that step, schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session™ with us, your Personal Family Lawyer®, so we can put the full Kids Protection Plan® in place. From there, we can determine if there are any other estate planning measures that your family might need to ensure the well-being and care of your children no matter what happens.

⇒ If you have already named long-term guardians in your will or as a stand-alone measure, either on your own or with a lawyer, we can review your existing legal documents to see whether you have made any of the most common mistakes that could leave your kids at risk. From there, we will revise your plan and put the proper protections in place to ensure your children are fully protected.

Life & Legacy Planning: Do Right By Those You Love Most
The DIY approach might be a good idea if you’re looking to build a new deck for your backyard, but when it comes to estate planning, it’s actually one of the worst choices you can make. Are you really willing to put your family’s well-being and wealth at risk just to save a few bucks?

If you’ve yet to do any planning, contact us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session, which is the first step in our Life & Legacy Planning Process. During this initial meeting, we’ll take you through an analysis of your assets, what’s most important to you, and what will happen to your loved ones when you die or if you become incapacitated.

If, as a result of this process, we determine that you really do have a very simple situation and you want to create your own estate planning documents yourself online, we will support you to do that. However, if as a result of the process, you decide you would like us to create a plan for you, we’ll support you to find the optimal level of planning for a price that’s right for you.

And if you’ve already created an estate plan—whether it’s a DIY job or one created with another lawyer’s help—contact us to schedule an Estate Plan Review & Check-Up. With our support, we will ensure your plan is not only properly drafted and updated, but that it has all of the protections in place to prevent your children from ever being placed in the care of strangers or anyone you’d never want raising them.

In either case, working with us will empower you to feel 100% confident that you have the right combination of estate planning solutions to fit with your unique asset profile, family dynamics, and budget. As your Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we see estate planning as far more than simply planning for your death and passing on your “estate” and assets to your loved ones—it’s about planning for a life you love and a legacy worth leaving by the choices you make today—and this is why we call our services Life & Legacy Planning. Contact us today to get your plan started.

This article is a service of Sahmra A Stevenson, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $450 session at no charge. 

10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes Your Family Can’t Afford to Make—Part 1

Because estate planning involves actively thinking about and planning for frightening topics like death, old age, and crippling disability, many people put it off or simply ignore it all together until it’s too late. Sadly, this unwillingness to face reality often creates serious hardship, expense, and trauma for those loved ones you leave behind. 

To complicate matters, the recent proliferation of online estate planning document services, such as LegalZoom®, Rocket Lawyer®, and Trustandwill.com, may have misled you into thinking that estate planning is a do-it-yourself (DIY) affair, which involves nothing more than filling out the right legal forms. However, proper estate planning entails far more than filling out legal forms. 

In fact, without a thorough understanding of how the legal process works upon your death or incapacity and applies specifically to your family dynamics and the nature of your assets, you’ll likely make serious mistakes when creating a DIY will or trust. And the worst part is that these mistakes won’t be discovered until you are gone—and the very people you were trying to protect will be the ones stuck cleaning up the mess you created just to save a few bucks. 

Estate planning is definitely not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Even if you think your particular situation is simple, that turns out to almost never be the case. To demonstrate just how complicated estate planning can be, here are 10 of the most common estate planning mistakes, starting with the worst blunder of all: failing to create an estate plan.

1. Leaving No Estate Plan At All
If you die without an estate plan, the court will decide who inherits your assets, and this can lead to all sorts of problems. Who is entitled to your property is determined by our state’s intestate succession laws, which hinge largely upon whether you are married and if you have children. Spouses and children are given top priority, followed by your other closest living family members.

If you are single with no children, your assets typically go to your parents and siblings, and then more distant relatives if you have no living parents or siblings. If no living relatives can be located, your assets go to the state. It’s important to note that state intestacy laws only apply to blood relatives, so unmarried partners and close friends would get nothing. If you want someone outside of your family to inherit your assets, having a plan is an absolute must.

If you’re married with children and die with no plan, it might seem like things would go fairly smoothly, but that’s not always the case. If you’re married, but have children from a previous relationship, for example, the court could give everything to your spouse and leave your children with nothing. In another instance, you might be estranged from your kids or not trust them with money, but without a plan, state law controls who gets your assets, not you.

Moreover, dying without a plan could also cause your surviving loved ones to get into an ugly court battle over who has the most right to your property. Or if you become incapacitated, your loved ones could even get into conflict around your medical care. You may think this would never happen to your loved ones, but we see families torn apart by it all the time, even when there’s not significant financial wealth involved.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will help you create a plan that handles your assets and your medical care in the exact manner you wish, taking into account all of your family dynamics, so your death or incapacity won’t be any more painful or expensive for your family than it needs to be.

2. Thinking A Will Alone Is Enough
Lots of people, particularly older folks, believe that a will is the only estate planning tool they need. While a will is a fundamental part of nearly every adult’s estate plan, which can ensure that your assets go where you want them to go in the event of your death, using a will by itself comes with some serious limitations, including the following:

  • Wills require your family to go through the court process known as probate, which can not only be lengthy and expensive, it’s also completely open to the public and frequently creates ugly conflicts among your loved ones.
  • Wills don’t offer you any protection if become incapacitated by illness or injury and are unable to make your own medical, financial, and legal decisions.
  • Wills don’t cover jointly owned assets or those with beneficiary designations, such as life insurance policies and 401(k) plans.
  • Wills don’t provide any protection or guidance for when and how your heirs take control of their inheritance.
  • Naming guardians for your minor children in your will can leave them vulnerable to being placed in the care of strangers.

Given these facts, if your estate plan consists of a will alone, you are missing out on many valuable safeguards for your assets, while also guaranteeing your family will have to go to court if you become incapacitated or when you die. Fortunately, all of the above issues can be effectively managed using a trust. That said, as you’ll see below, trusts are by no means a panacea—these documents come with their own unique drawbacks, especially if you try to prepare one on your own.

3. Creating A Trust & Not Properly Funding It
Many people now know that a trust can keep your family out of court, and you may think you can just go online to set up your own trust, or have a lawyer do it with you as a one-size-fits all solution. And while that might be true, particularly if you have very simple assets and few family members, even in that case, you are likely to overlook one of the most important parts of creating a trust: “funding” it.

An unfunded trust is a trust that exists, but that doesn’t hold any of your assets because you didn’t retitle them properly, or because you acquired new assets after creating your trust. This is all too common, and if this is true for you, it will leave your family with a big mess, even though you have officially created your trust. 

Funding your trust properly is extremely important, because if any assets are not properly funded, the trust won’t work, and your family will have to go to court in order to take ownership of that property. And when you acquire new assets after your trust is created, you must make sure those assets are properly funded into your trust as well.

While many lawyers will create a trust for you, few will ensure your assets are properly inventoried and funded into your trust, and even fewer will ensure the inventory of your assets is kept up-to-date as your life and assets change over time. This might sound crazy, but it’s actually common practice among many estate planning firms—but not ours.

As your Personal Family Lawyer® law firm, we will not only make sure all of your assets are properly titled when you initially create your trust, but we will also ensure that any new assets you acquire over the course of your life are inventoried and properly funded to your trust. This keeps your assets from being lost, and prevents your family from being inadvertently forced into court because your plan was never fully completed.

In light of these facts, if your estate plan includes a trust, it’s critical to work with us, your local Personal Family Lawyer® to ensure it works exactly as you intended.

4. Not Leaving An Up-To-Date Inventory Of Assets

As mentioned above, even if you’ve properly funded your assets into your trust, your estate plan will be worthless if your heirs don’t know what you have or where to find it. In fact, there’s more than $58 billion dollars worth of lost assets in the U.S. Department of Unclaimed Property right now. And that’s all because someone died or became incapacitated without letting anyone know how to locate their assets. 

This is especially critical for digital assets like cryptocurrency, social media, email, and data stored in the cloud, because if you haven’t properly addressed these assets in your estate plan, there’s a good chance they will be lost forever if something happens to you. For all of these reasons, creating and maintaining a comprehensive inventory of all of your assets is a standard part of every estate plan we create. With our support, you can rest assured that your family will know exactly what assets you own and how to locate them should anything happen to you. 

But that’s not all. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will not only help you create a comprehensive asset inventory, we have systems in place to make sure that inventory stays consistently updated throughout your lifetime. This is such an important and urgent issue, we’ve even created a unique (and totally FREE) tool called a Personal Resource Map to help you get the inventory process started right now, by yourself, without the need for a lawyer.

To learn more, visit the Personal Resource Map website to watch a webinar by Ali Katz, founder of Personal Family Lawyer®, and then get your asset inventory started for free. That way, no matter what, if something happens to you, your family will know what you have, where it is, and how to find it.

Then, schedule a meeting with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to incorporate your inventory with your other estate planning strategies.  

5. Failing To Regularly Review & Update Your Estate Plan
In addition to keeping an updated asset inventory, it’s vital that you regularly review and update all of your planning documents. Far too often people prepare a will or trust , then put it into a drawer or on a shelf, and forget about it.

Yet, an estate plan is not a one-and-done deal. As time passes, your life circumstances change, the laws change, and your assets change, you must update your plan to reflect these changes—that is, if you want your plan to actually work for your loved ones and keep them out of court and conflict.

We recommend reviewing your plan annually to make sure its terms are up to date. And be sure to immediately update your plan following major life events like divorce, births, deaths, and inheritances. We actually have built-in processes to make sure this happens—be sure to ask us about them.

Beyond sheer necessity, an annual life review can be a beautiful ritual that puts you at ease, and helps you to set the course of your life and keeps your life on course, knowing that you’ve got your affairs in order, all handled, and completely updated each year.

Next week, in part two, we’ll wrap up our list of the 10 most common estate-planning mistakes. Until then, if you are ready to get your estate planning handled and taken care of the right way with ease and affordability, start by contacting us, your local Personal Family Lawyer® for a Family Wealth Planning Session. Your Family Wealth Planning Session is custom-designed to your assets, your family, your wishes, and to educate you on the best way to reach your objectives for the people you love most.

This article is a service of Sahmra A Stevenson Esq., Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $450 session at no charge.

When you think about loved ones who’ve passed away, you probably don’t think very much—or even at all—about the “things” they’ve left you. And when they do leave something behind, what you likely cherish most about the object are the memories and feelings the item evokes, not the thing itself.

For the founder and CEO of New Law Business Model, Ali Katz, the most treasured memento her late father left her wasn’t even something he intended to be special—it was just a random voicemail on her cellphone. And the message wasn’t meant to be anything sentimental.

His message simply said, “Lex, it’s your dad. Call me back.”

Following his death, Ali loved listening to that message to hear her father’s voice. Of all the assets he left behind, that tiny voicemail was what she cherished most.

Until one day, she went to listen to the message and discovered it had been erased—and her father’s voice was lost to her forever. She still recalls that day as one of her worst ever. Yet like most painful events, it taught her an important lesson.

Losing that voicemail ultimately inspired Ali to build a special new feature into her family-centered model of estate planning, known as the Family Wealth Legacy Interview.

Family Wealth Legacy Interviews: Sharing Your Family’s Unique Story

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we recognize that estate planning isn’t just about protecting and passing on your financial wealth and other tangible assets when you die. When done right, estate planning supports you to pass down the most precious assets of all—your life stories, lessons, insights, and values—and done so intentionally. That’s why we call it Life & Legacy Planning, not just estate planning.

To collect and preserve what truly matters most, we include a unique service in every estate plan we create for our clients. When you plan with us, we will personally guide you to create a customized recording for the people you love—far more in-depth than Ali’s dad’s two-second message—in which you share your most insightful lessons, memories, and experiences. From there, we will provide you with the recording digitally to ensure it will survive long after you—and your money—are gone. 

And don’t worry, if this sounds overwhelming or difficult in any way, it’s not. Our clients consistently tell us they are surprised about how easy it was, and how quickly they were able to create a truly meaningful gift for the people they love. But most importantly, what they also tell us is that it brings more intention and awareness to how they want to pass on their values, insights, stories, and experiences to the people they love on a day-to-day basis going forward.


Best of all, the Family Wealth Legacy Process is offered at no additional cost to you, since it is part of each plan we create for our clients. And the process of documenting this recording is as easy and convenient as possible: We use a series of helpful questions and prompts, which makes the process both easy and enjoyable. From start to finish, the entire process takes less than an hour. 

My favorite part about this process is that most of our clients tell us that going through it helps them rekindle life moments and memories they would otherwise not share with their loved ones. Indeed, this unique process can enrich your family with something far more valuable than any tangible asset you might leave, and instead leave behind a lasting legacy of love. 

Life & Legacy Planning

In the end, your family’s most precious wealth is not money, but the memories you make, the values you instill, and the lessons you hand down. And left to chance, these assets are likely to be lost forever just like Ali’s voicemail from her father.

That said, recording your Family Wealth Legacy Interview is just a start. To protect and preserve your family’s tangible wealth and other assets, you should create a comprehensive estate plan. Yet, we’ve discovered that “estate planning” is really a misnomer. When done right, it’s really about planning for a life you love and a legacy worth leaving by the choices you make today—which is why we call it Life & Legacy Planning.

Your Life & Legacy Plan goes far beyond simply creating documents and then never seeing us again. We will develop a relationship with you and your family that lasts not only for your lifetime, but for the lifetime of your children and their children if that’s your wish. And this all starts with our Family Wealth Planning Session. If you’d like to learn more about this process or schedule your appointment, contact us, your local Personal Family Lawyer® today.

This article is a service of Sahmra A Stevenson, Esq., Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $450 session at no charge. 

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