Halloween at Edwards Group

In working with our clients, we get to know their families, and we love sharing our families as well. Here are a few of the pics from this year’s Halloween with the Edwards Group children:

Bailey Edwards and an unnamed pumpkin friend.

Asset Coordinator, Laura Peffley's newest grandchild Josie, with her parents, Karie and Tim.

Joshua's youngest son, SuperMax!

That's no skeleton! That's Cole Otis Edwards, the latest addition to Dave's family.

Stefanie Siwak's girls, Lily and Kelsey.

Baby Photos from Dave!

Thanks so much for all the good wishes!  We heard from so many of our friends, clients, and fellow professionals after Cole Otis Edwards was born on September 13th!  Michelle and Cole are doing great.  And Bailey is having a great time being a big sister.  Here are a few photos I wanted to show off!

our new addition to the family.

Bailey meet your little brother, Cole Otis Edwards!

Bailey holding Cole just after meeting him for the first time!

I think Bailey likes having a little brother!

time for a snack

Bailey Olivia and Cole Otis - big sis and little brother

Welcome home!

Welcome Home!

Sweaters in the Suitcase – and your living trust document

What do sweaters in the suitcase have to do with estate planning?  Let me tell you.

As I sit down with clients to review the draft of their living trust, they may think the trust is much thicker than they expected.  Before we review the trust, I tell them a story.

I’m terrible at packing for trips.  I pack way too much.  I always think I need everything – all kinds of extra clothes, books, all kinds of stuff.  Of course, with each trip out of town, I don’t use half the stuff I take.  So, what happens when I take the next trip?  Same thing.  I still pack way too much because, you know, I just might need it.  Doesn’t matter that I usually don’t need all that because this next trip I just MIGHT need it!

What does this have to do with a living trust document? As we look through the trust documents, there are various paragraphs, pages, even entire sections that are “extra sweaters in the suitcase”.  It’s there if we need it, even if we probably won’t need it.

Since our estate planning clients don’t pay us by the word or by the page or even by the hour (they pay flat fees), then we make sure our living trust documents have all the “extra sweaters” that may be needed in the future to carry out their plan.

Want an example of an “extra sweater” in the trust?   Well, we have an entire section that talks about what happens if we can’t find a beneficiary.  If we leave money to a long lost cousin and don’t know where the cousin is when it’s time to distribute, we have a process laid out clearly in the document so it doesn’t hold up the rest of the trust plan.

That’s just one example of the various “extra sweaters” we include in our legal documents to better protect our clients and their families.

If you’d like to read more about what trusts are and what they do, check out our blog post, “Your Bucket List for Estate Planning: Why a Trust Might be Right for You.”

P.S.  I am writing this sitting in a hotel in Denver, Colorado at a conference.  And yes, I again packed way too much stuff!   But it’s here if I need it…

Contain Yourself: Fool Proof Solution to Getting Organized

Why is getting organized so much fun? Well, I should rephrase that. Getting organized is a lot of work. But BEING organized is fun. A while back Michelle and I went to the Container Store in St. Louis. Who would think there is a store with nothing but containers for storing things? And it’s fun to look around in there! The truth is:

  1. We like to be organized.
  2. We usually don’t get organized on our own.
  3. When we do get organized, it doesn’t take us long to slip back into disorganization.

You’ll be glad to hear we have discovered a fool proof method for organizing your financial life, and keeping it that way. Let us help you! There is no doubt that estate planning (as well as peace of mind and happy relationships) rest on good financial decisions and organization. Here is how we help clients in our Dynasty membership program:

  1. Store documents. We keep copies of deeds, bank statements, insurance policies, etc. for us to refer to, but also in case the client needs it.
  2. Identify Problems. We help clients identify problems in their financial life. A good estate plan will not accomplish much if the person’s wealth is poorly invested, incurring extra income taxes, exposed to risks, or confusing to deal with after their death.
  3. Summary Reports. Assets can be scattered everywhere, without any one report to pull them all together. We maintain updated client financial info, and send out an Asset Review Report on a regular basis, asking the client to review.
  4. Reminders. Asset titling and beneficiary designations may seem boring, but they are key to making an estate plan work. We regularly remind and teach our clients what to look for in coordinating their assets.
  5. Warranty. After a client has titled a new asset based on what they learned from us, they send us the written proof. We double check it to see if the asset is properly organized with their estate plan. If not, we help fix it. Once we give it our blessing, they can rest with peace of mind.
  6. Objective advice on important decisions. I don’t invest assets for clients or sell financial products. But I see firsthand the work of dozens of financial advisors as well as the results of our “do it yourself” clients. I am always glad to give feedback on my client’s financial or business decisions. Often, I support the good advice coming from the financial advisor, and help the client understand how it fits into the bigger picture. Once in a while, I protect a client who is being threatened by poor service or advice from another professional.

A great way to learn more about Edwards Group’s unique approach and what the Dynasty program can do for you, is to attend our Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started. Click here to see upcoming dates.

Walls coming down at Edwards Group

What has been going on at Edwards Group LLC?   With the addition of Joshua Becker and Laura Peffley, we ran out of space.  So what to do?   Knock down walls.

After (or I should probably say “during”)

Here is the view into what used to be my office. Now part of my office is a hallway!

Before

Pic from Feb. 2009 open house. To the left, that is my office door. You can see my diplomas, etc. on the wall.

Dave’s office – before and after

Here's my old, bigger office. This photo was taken from what is now the hallway.

Now a glimpse of my new office.

Now here is a view from the back (new part) of the office. You get a glimpse of my office thru the door on the left. The 1st photo above was taken from the counter with the coffee pot, looking back this way.

Estate Planning: What’s in your tool box?

What tools do you want to use?

Is this the first question that your contractor asks you when you decide to hire him to build a house?

Or, if you’re car stops running and you take it to the mechanic to be fixed, do you quiz him on which tools he plans to use in repairing it?

When you need surgery to save your life, do you make sure you learn all about the different scalpels and various medical instruments to be used by the doctor?

No? You don’t focus on those things?

Well, then why do people focus more on the estate planning tools than on what they want to accomplish with their plan?

Wills, Living Trusts, Powers of Attorney, various other planning or tax strategies. All of these are just tools. Tools in the tool box of an estate planning attorney who is there to help you build the kind of plan you want. If the plan looks and does what you want, then does it really matter what tools were used to get there?

The division of labor is much clearer in some of the other professions – doctor, contractor, mechanic, etc. But with law, it seems that attorneys have fed the confusion by hyping and selling certain “tools” instead of promoting their process of helping clients build a plan that works for them. Sure, some clients want to understand the tools, and that’s fine.

But, remember, the tools are not what’s important. What is important? Having your wishes, goals, and dreams carried out, in a way that allows your wisdom and values to be communicated as well.

My clients are already the experts on what they need to know. They know their families, values, what’s important to them. I am the mechanic with the tool box, and I can use whatever tools are necessary to help you carry out your plan.

So, if you want to work with me on your planning, please keep in mind that we want to focus our energy on the house we are building, not what kind of hammer is being used to build it.

How to pick an estate attorney – 4 questions to ask

Here are the questions I want any client to ask before they hire Edwards Group LLC to complete their estate plan.

1. Is this the right law firm for you? (We’re not for everyone because we do things quite a bit differently than most attorneys.)

2. Are you the right client for us? We are picky about our clients, who we expect to become clients for life.

3. Is this the right time for you? Plan when you believe in it and are ready to invest your time and energy (and money) to do it right.

4. Do you clearly understand the fees? We are up front and quote flat fees before we start so we can dig into the planning without any more thoughts or worries about what it may cost.

Will your estate attorney outlive you?

Interesting article in State Journal-Register yesterday. Percentage of attorneys in Illinois who are are between 50-74 years old went from 22% in 1993 to 39% in 2008.

http://www.sj-r.com/homepage/x2085729714/Number-of-lawyers-over-age-50-climbs?view=print

Fairly often, I hear new clients tell me they were looking for someone “younger than they are” to be around to handle their estate and help the family after they’re gone. I don’t market myself that way, but I guess it makes sense.

Transitions in Life

BAILEY’S “NEW SCHOOL”

At our house, we are in the middle of a transition. 2 1/2 year old Bailey is switching to a new daycare. For the last couple of years, Bailey has gone 2-3 days a week to her “school” (Memorial Childcare) when Michelle is working as a nurse at Memorial Medical Center or substitute teaching at Butler Elementary.
Because of my new office location and some schedule changes for Michelle’s work, it no longer made sense to drive across town to drop off and pick up Bailey at Memorial. So, yesterday was her last day and she is going to be switching to Pleasant Run Learning Center which is right down the street from my new office.
We’re excited about the new school (it has been highly recommended) and how convenient it will be, but it’s still sad. Bailey loves it at Memorial. She’s had the most wonderful teachers and she’s gotten to know her little friends. When we say our prayers over the dinner table, she tells us different of her little friends that she wants to pray for. And some of her friend’s parents are our friends that we knew even before Bailey was born.
The transition is harder for mom and dad than for Bailey. It’s hard for us to move her from a place that we have trusted and that has played such a big part in her life these past 2 years. But Bailey is ready to go! After visiting her new school for an hour with mom a couple weeks ago, she woke up the next morning wanting to go start at her new school THAT day. I said, well, it will be a couple of weeks until you switch.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all dealt with transitions as well as a toddler does? (at least this transition).

THIS IS WHAT I DO (transitions)

Which reminded me that what I do every day is help people with transitions. Some transitions are planned and some are not. Some we will all face at some point in our life and others only some of us will have to deal with. Some we plan for, hoping we never have to use those plans. Other plans we know will be used eventually. (they say the human condition is 100% fatal).
I help people plan for transitions before they happen, and help other people deal with the stress of a transition as it is it happening. Without enough preparation, there is always greater stress and expense, and the result of the transition is not always what the person expected.
I enjoy helping clients plan and gain real peace of mind. It’s much more difficult to see my clients struggling through a difficult situation that could have been much easier with proper planning beforehand.

What is your job, what is the attorney’s job

Boring is defined as “so lacking in interest as to cause mental weariness.”

Well, hopefully this post is not really boring, but I wanted to make a point. I have a theory that most of the estate planning information being said or written by attorneys out there is BORING.

And by boring, I don’t mean it is wrong or not important. But I do mean that it doesn’t talk about the things that matter to you. Why is that? I think it’s because many attorneys have forgotten what their job is and what your job is. If it were the attorney’s job just to write down what you tell them (basically a scrivener), then you would need to understand all the technical aspects of tax law, probate, asset protection, etc.

The IRS Code – is that why you plan your estate, to learn tax law? When you go to a doctor because you are sick, do you want an anatomy lesson or a discussion of the latest medical journals? No, you just want to get well.

I have found that estate planning works best when I have a job to do and my clients have a job to do. What is the client’s job? To tell me about their family, their dreams, concerns, fears, how they want to live their life and how they want to be remembered. It’s my job to guide them through some options to clarify their goals. Once we decide the goals, it is my job to use legal and tax strategies to accomplish those goals.