Trusts & Estates

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TandE

Trusts & Estates

Post by TandE » Tue Mar 03, 2020 7:47 pm

I don't see a thread for T&E, so I thought I'd start one.

First things first, there's really 3 different aspects to this field, and they're quite different:

1) Planning
2) Administration
3) Litigation

Planning is when you meet with a client and figure out what they want to do. It's part investigator, part family counseling. You need to talk to the client and get them to lay everything on the table - what they own, what other interests they have, what their family situation is like, who they want to leave things to, what issues their children have, etc. Then you design a plan that hopefully addresses all their concerns. Once the client agrees to the plan, you go and draft the documents, and do whatever else is needed to make the plan effective.
Depending on your client demographics, this might include corporate law, elder law, family law, real property, and tax. Generally speaking, clients come in 3 categories:
Young families want to make sure their children are taken care of if anything happens to them (fairly easy; anyone straight out of law school can figure this out pretty quickly)
Middle class couples need to plan for long-term care (not too complicated, but make sure you take some CLEs on LTC. But stay away from crisis planning, i.e. those who need LTC immediately, without an experienced guide, because you will make mistakes the first time you do it, guaranteed)
Wealthy families are predominantly about wealth transfer / tax planning. (don't even think about doing this without an experienced senior attorney or mentor. It gets very complicated very quickly, and the stakes are high enough to sue the attorney over any mistakes)
Additionally, issues with heirs need to be addressed. Examples include mentally and/or physically disabled children, drug/alcohol dependencies, and those with spending problems.

Administration is when someone has passed away, and the property needs to be transferred to the next generation. If there's a trust, it means following the rules of the trust. If not, it means filing with court, getting the will validated, or following state intestacy laws. There's a lot of busywork here, and it's quite easy to rack up a lot of hours on even simple estates.

Litigation is exactly what it sounds like - contesting a will, trying to invalidate a trust, etc. etc.
I don't do any litigation, so I can't really talk about it.

Best part of the practice: talking to clients, learning about them, their families, their particular situations

Riskiest part of the practice: For a starting attorney, it's very easy to get in over their head. There are a lot of readily available resources that an attorney can purchase, such as sample trust forms. But even with taking a CLE, some of the tools available for proper planning can be very complex, and without intricately knowing the underlying concepts, it's very easy to screw up. The tax code can be quite unforgiving. And don't even get me started on the Secure Act and Section 199a. Nobody has figured those out yet. Nobody.

Worst part of the practice: getting clients.
There are many ways to get clients. What works for one might not work for another. There are some T&E attorneys who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on advertising, there are some T&E attorneys who get all their clients from professional referrals, there are some T&E attorneys who get all their clients by word of mouth.

The market: there are two different markets for T&E.
The retail market is your typical small shop, where most of the clients are of moderate means. It's an easy lifestyle, with most attorneys working regular office hours. Pay is better than sh*tlaw, but definitely not biglaw. Successful partners/firm owners can make bank, and though it's unusual, I know several who net a million dollars per year. It's a great job for people who don't have the chops for more complicated matters, especially if they're good at sales. Generally (and hopefully) these attorneys stay away from high net worth estate planning.
On the sophisticated side of the spectrum, there's a big shortage of experienced T&E attorneys. A few years ago nobody in biglaw was entering the field, and large firms weren't hiring anyone to practice T&E, it was considered a dying practice group. Now there's a huge demand for attorneys with sophisticated T&E experience, and a lot of firms are turning down the work. In my secondary market, I know that half the biglaw firms are actively looking and I know of mid-size firms that refuse to handle complex matters. When I put feelers out recently, I ended up with job offers across the country.

Guest

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by Guest » Thu Mar 05, 2020 8:59 pm

Have you heard of anyone successfully transitioning t&e from corporate tax? Image

TandE

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by TandE » Thu Mar 05, 2020 10:13 pm

Guest wrote:
Thu Mar 05, 2020 8:59 pm
Have you heard of anyone successfully transitioning t&e from corporate tax? Image
Quick answer: it's not easy, but it's doable.

Probably the easiest way to make that transition is to move to a tax boutique that also happens to do T&E work.
Or, if your firm has a T&E department, ask if you can help out. Most T&E departments are swamped right now and they'd love getting some help.

Truth is, any upscale T&E boutique, or any small to mid-size firm with a T&E practice would love to have someone with sophisticated tax experience. The problem is that you probably don't know the T&E techniques, and there might not be anyone who can train you.
If you're doing corporate tax, you should have no problem learning how to structure an IDGT, or proper discounting using QPRT, or to maximize the benefits of a FLP. But someone still needs to show you, and outside of biglaw, very few people know how to do it - realistically, there just aren't that many people who need extensive tax planning (especially outside of NYC).
When I put feelers out, no joke, I've had mid-size firms with sizeable and reputable T&E departments tell me they turn away the business because they can't do it. That also means they can't teach you to do it.

Going into retail T&E is a different matter altogether. It's very possible, but you're going to have to accept a major cut in salary (at least in the beginning) and develop a completely different skill set. Retail T&E is much more sales-oriented, it's about bringing in prospective clients and converting prospects into paying clients. Quality of the work barely even matters. If you're interested in going that route, give me a throwaway email.

Guest

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by Guest » Fri Mar 06, 2020 11:50 am

TandE wrote:
Thu Mar 05, 2020 10:13 pm
Guest wrote:
Thu Mar 05, 2020 8:59 pm
Have you heard of anyone successfully transitioning t&e from corporate tax? Image
Quick answer: it's not easy, but it's doable.

Probably the easiest way to make that transition is to move to a tax boutique that also happens to do T&E work.
Or, if your firm has a T&E department, ask if you can help out. Most T&E departments are swamped right now and they'd love getting some help.

Truth is, any upscale T&E boutique, or any small to mid-size firm with a T&E practice would love to have someone with sophisticated tax experience. The problem is that you probably don't know the T&E techniques, and there might not be anyone who can train you.
If you're doing corporate tax, you should have no problem learning how to structure an IDGT, or proper discounting using QPRT, or to maximize the benefits of a FLP. But someone still needs to show you, and outside of biglaw, very few people know how to do it - realistically, there just aren't that many people who need extensive tax planning (especially outside of NYC).
When I put feelers out, no joke, I've had mid-size firms with sizeable and reputable T&E departments tell me they turn away the business because they can't do it. That also means they can't teach you to do it.

Going into retail T&E is a different matter altogether. It's very possible, but you're going to have to accept a major cut in salary (at least in the beginning) and develop a completely different skill set. Retail T&E is much more sales-oriented, it's about bringing in prospective clients and converting prospects into paying clients. Quality of the work barely even matters. If you're interested in going that route, give me a throwaway email.
Thanks! What do you think the benefits are of T&E vs corporate tax?

Also, what is it about 199A you find difficult? I would think it wouldn't come up in T&E much but I guess I don't really know

TandE

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by TandE » Fri Mar 06, 2020 3:58 pm

Guest wrote:
Fri Mar 06, 2020 11:50 am
Thanks! What do you think the benefits are of T&E vs corporate tax?

Also, what is it about 199A you find difficult? I would think it wouldn't come up in T&E much but I guess I don't really know
So you're gonna have to correct me on something. I know there's standalone corporate tax practices, but I've always viewed tax as something done in conjunction with something else. As in, tax in relation to M&A, tax in relation to real estate, tax in relation to insurance, tax in relation to T&E. I always figured the tax guys/gals get pulled in whenever another department needs their help. Or, more precisely, I figure they kind of end up working in specific industries and become specialists in that area of tax.
Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

So to me the big benefit of T&E is that it's relatively low pressure. It's incredibly rare for a matter to be urgent - unless someone is dying, it's easy to schedule matters and meetings at your convenience. Your schedule is completely under control - you never need to pull an all-nighter, you don't need to worry about when a deal is going to close, or if a judge decides to schedule a deposition on your kid's birthday, or anything like that. Depending on the employer/department, the hours might be up there, but you can decide which days to work early or late. The only thing not entirely in your control is your clients, but a well-run operation includes scheduling the clients far enough in advance that it's still based on your schedule, and has paralegals/assistants who make sure the clients do what they need to do.
Yes, I have had the rare occasion where I had to meet a client in the hospital or where the work had to be done ASAP because the client might die, but that's probably less than once a year on average.
Additionally, change happens very slowly in the world of T&E. And with that I mean the techniques and the work. You can take an ILIT created 20 years ago, swap out a few names and numbers, and use the same document today. The underlying math for a QTIP doesn't change just because the tax rate or the discount rate change. So it's really not difficult to stay current.

Even something like 199A, which has potentially drastic changes to the clients (particularly in planning for inherited IRAs), upon review I've made exactly zero changes to any documents I've created. To answer your question, for the most part, I don't find it difficult, but it reminds me of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, which was written so hastily that it took a while for people to absorb all the little nuances that are in there.
But the reason 199A is important to me, is that at the level that I operate (which most T&E attorneys don't do) I also do related corporate work, such as a recent client where I reorganized their business(es) into separate entities for asset protection purposes (if Business A gets sued, Business B is protected, and vice versa). I twice had to spend several hours arguing with their accountant, the first time explaining how the transaction was tax-free, the second time because the accountant was afraid that the client might lose some tax deductions under 199A.

Guest

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by Guest » Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:56 pm

The retail market is your typical small shop, where most of the clients are of moderate means. It's an easy lifestyle, with most attorneys working regular office hours.
At least for basic services, the market has seemed to have gotten so competitive that working regular office hours is getting more difficult unless you already have a stellar reputation. It seems as if more attorneys are adding wills/trusts to their practice since the software is getting cheaper and better. I meet many family law attorneys that have it as part of their practice, real estate attorneys, even personal injury attorneys who want to add flat fee work.

You have attorneys willing to meet clients after hours, at their house, on weekends. I know a trust and estate lawyer at a regional big law firm that works 7 days a week, even with her firm's name and network behind her.

It seems like it's getting tougher and tougher to do a 9 to 5 when clients have lawyers who are eager to give them a house visit on a 4pm on a Sunday. It makes it all the more convenient for the client to say yes to them, because they don't have to take time off work if your office is 9-5 M-F to get their estate planning done. They have other lawyers who will tell them "Forget that guy, we value customer service, I can meet you on Saturday or Sunday, any time at your convenience."
Successful partners/firm owners can make bank, and though it's unusual, I know several who net a million dollars per year. It's a great job for people who don't have the chops for more complicated matters, especially if they're good at sales. Generally (and hopefully) these attorneys stay away from high net worth estate planning.
I live in a tech area known for it's high net worth population. It seems a lot of people from these companies, especially the younger families, will just use their company's prepaid legal service (it's sort of sold to them as legal insurance for a nominal fee each month). Last I inquired, these companies were paying estate law planning attorneys $200-300 to do their Will.

This includes the high net worth individuals at these companies too, who will spend 10x that on a Pelaton for their wife, or $100,000+ on a 2nd Tesla. But the idea of paying even $1000 for legal docs when their prepaid legal insurance plan will handle it for them is absurd to them.

I know a guy who is a multi-millionaire in his late 20s who went with one of these plans, despite his high amount of assets. It's created this weird effect in the market here, where a lot of these individuals might have went for high end estate law planning services prior, are now just using whatever lawyer from their prepaid plan.

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pancakes3
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Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by pancakes3 » Fri Mar 27, 2020 10:42 am

fwiw, ime, family lawyers are still just sources of referrals for T&E and not jumping into the market themselves. haven't seen PI attys get in the game either. RE lawyers do cross-pollinate but doesn't look to be a recent development.

TandE

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by TandE » Sun Mar 29, 2020 6:14 pm

Guest wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:56 pm
The retail market is your typical small shop, where most of the clients are of moderate means. It's an easy lifestyle, with most attorneys working regular office hours.
At least for basic services, the market has seemed to have gotten so competitive that working regular office hours is getting more difficult unless you already have a stellar reputation. It seems as if more attorneys are adding wills/trusts to their practice since the software is getting cheaper and better. I meet many family law attorneys that have it as part of their practice, real estate attorneys, even personal injury attorneys who want to add flat fee work.

You have attorneys willing to meet clients after hours, at their house, on weekends. I know a trust and estate lawyer at a regional big law firm that works 7 days a week, even with her firm's name and network behind her.

It seems like it's getting tougher and tougher to do a 9 to 5 when clients have lawyers who are eager to give them a house visit on a 4pm on a Sunday. It makes it all the more convenient for the client to say yes to them, because they don't have to take time off work if your office is 9-5 M-F to get their estate planning done. They have other lawyers who will tell them "Forget that guy, we value customer service, I can meet you on Saturday or Sunday, any time at your convenience."
Successful partners/firm owners can make bank, and though it's unusual, I know several who net a million dollars per year. It's a great job for people who don't have the chops for more complicated matters, especially if they're good at sales. Generally (and hopefully) these attorneys stay away from high net worth estate planning.
I live in a tech area known for it's high net worth population. It seems a lot of people from these companies, especially the younger families, will just use their company's prepaid legal service (it's sort of sold to them as legal insurance for a nominal fee each month). Last I inquired, these companies were paying estate law planning attorneys $200-300 to do their Will.

This includes the high net worth individuals at these companies too, who will spend 10x that on a Pelaton for their wife, or $100,000+ on a 2nd Tesla. But the idea of paying even $1000 for legal docs when their prepaid legal insurance plan will handle it for them is absurd to them.

I know a guy who is a multi-millionaire in his late 20s who went with one of these plans, despite his high amount of assets. It's created this weird effect in the market here, where a lot of these individuals might have went for high end estate law planning services prior, are now just using whatever lawyer from their prepaid plan.
Just to be clear, I never said 9-5, just that the hours are regular and predictable. Number of hours varies significantly from firm to firm

Young people are not the target audience for T&E. There are some who consider basic wills loss-leaders, hoping to make big bucks off the probate (I despise them), and a lot of sh-tale attorneys are happy to add basic wills to their list of services, not realizing they’re losing money on the deal.

Think about it - 1 hr consultation, 1 hr drafting and preparing documents (even with software) and another hour for the signing simply isn’t profitable at $200-$300 each, even at $500 a pop you’re still not making much.

The real money is in trusts. For lower income clients, long term care planning at $3000-$5000 per client, more if you also do Medicaid applications. At the high end, business succession and advanced tax planning at $10k+ is the order of the day.

While there is some overlap, in general office specializes - F and A1 do Medicaid planning and processing, A2 does litigation, T1 does business/corporate, and I specialize in advanced tax.

As an aside, my biggest concern is the proliferation of off-the-rack tools, which allow attorneys to get in over their heads. It’s now too regular an occurrence where I need to fix a badly done estate plan. Legal zoom is awful (seriously, their documents are pure garbage) but lousy attorneys can do more harm than good - and the mistakes might not be felt for decades to come. Just because you can buy the text for a GRAT, or use software to spit out ad IDGT, doesn’t mean you know how to use them. Or worse, how they work.

I just spent my entire weekend working on a pair of SLATs trying to avoid problems with the Reciprocal Trust doctrine without screwing with the tax treatment. If you don’t know why the trusts are taxed the way they are, or that the definition of a completed gift depends on which part if the tax code you’re looking at, or that the reciprocal trust doctrine is of the “I know it when I see it” kind, you’ll probably f—k it up.
(By way of partial explanation, a big part of T&E relies on the fact that gifts can be complete for estate tax purposes but incomplete for income tax purposes, because of oddities in the tax code)

TandE

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by TandE » Sun Mar 29, 2020 6:41 pm

But yes, people often balk at the cost. Especially young people. Young people think they’ll live forever, so estate planning is an afterthought.

However, when people do realize the difference, they’re often willing to pay a premium to get it done right.

Testator

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by Testator » Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:30 pm

So I live in the southern California region, and I would like to get ahead of the game in terms of estate planning. Is there a good way to find a good Trusts & Estates lawyer around this region? Are there ways to find one? I am a lawyer, but I don't work in this field, and I'm not sophisticated enough to discern who is a good T&E lawyer.

TandE

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by TandE » Tue Mar 31, 2020 11:28 pm

Testator wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:30 pm
So I live in the southern California region, and I would like to get ahead of the game in terms of estate planning. Is there a good way to find a good Trusts & Estates lawyer around this region? Are there ways to find one? I am a lawyer, but I don't work in this field, and I'm not sophisticated enough to discern who is a good T&E lawyer.
Do you mean you’re looking for someone to do your estate plan?
If so, give me a throwaway email, or other way to get in touch.

Anyway, there are two different aspects that matter.

First, EQ. is the attorney asking a lot of questions about your personal life? Who you want as heirs, any potential issues (special needs, alcoholism, etc), whether there will be unequal distribution (eg one child gets the house, or takes over the business), how you feel about the people your heirs are married to or dating.
The goal is to uncover every possible concern, including ones the client hasn’t even thought about.

Second, IQ. Does the attorney know his/her stuff? Is he/she good technically?
If you’re relatively young, what kinds of mechanisms are they discussing to protect your children?
If you’re 55+ and have a net worth of between $500k and $2m, are they discussing long-term care? (Red flag: if they recommend putting everything in an irrevocable trust they’re probably not that smart)
If you’re high net worth (anything near your state’s estate tax limit) do they propose trusts you’ve never heard of? (QPRT, IDGT, GRAT, SLAT)? Can they explain those trusts in simple terms? Can they explain the benefit of doing serial QPRTs? If you’re ultra-high new worth (tens of millions) can they discuss pros and cons of offshore structures? Can they explain what triggers the reciprocal trust doctrine?
This, by the way, is a specialty within T & E. Very few TandE attorneys do these, and I know of midlaw firms with robust T&E departments who won’t touch this stuff. Screwing up someone’s multimillion dollar estate is guaranteed to end up in a malpractice suit.

Sounds good

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by Sounds good » Wed Apr 01, 2020 1:58 am

TandE wrote:
Tue Mar 31, 2020 11:28 pm
Testator wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:30 pm
So I live in the southern California region, and I would like to get ahead of the game in terms of estate planning. Is there a good way to find a good Trusts & Estates lawyer around this region? Are there ways to find one? I am a lawyer, but I don't work in this field, and I'm not sophisticated enough to discern who is a good T&E lawyer.
Do you mean you’re looking for someone to do your estate plan?
If so, give me a throwaway email, or other way to get in touch.

Anyway, there are two different aspects that matter.

First, EQ. is the attorney asking a lot of questions about your personal life? Who you want as heirs, any potential issues (special needs, alcoholism, etc), whether there will be unequal distribution (eg one child gets the house, or takes over the business), how you feel about the people your heirs are married to or dating.
The goal is to uncover every possible concern, including ones the client hasn’t even thought about.

Second, IQ. Does the attorney know his/her stuff? Is he/she good technically?
If you’re relatively young, what kinds of mechanisms are they discussing to protect your children?
If you’re 55+ and have a net worth of between $500k and $2m, are they discussing long-term care? (Red flag: if they recommend putting everything in an irrevocable trust they’re probably not that smart)
If you’re high net worth (anything near your state’s estate tax limit) do they propose trusts you’ve never heard of? (QPRT, IDGT, GRAT, SLAT)? Can they explain those trusts in simple terms? Can they explain the benefit of doing serial QPRTs? If you’re ultra-high new worth (tens of millions) can they discuss pros and cons of offshore structures? Can they explain what triggers the reciprocal trust doctrine?
This, by the way, is a specialty within T & E. Very few TandE attorneys do these, and I know of midlaw firms with robust T&E departments who won’t touch this stuff. Screwing up someone’s multimillion dollar estate is guaranteed to end up in a malpractice suit.
Sounds good. Yes, please do email. Tyia

J u l y z e r g AT p r o t o n m a i l DOT com

FuzzyDunlop
Posts: 28
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Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by FuzzyDunlop » Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:00 pm

TandE wrote:
Sun Mar 29, 2020 6:14 pm




Just to be clear, I never said 9-5, just that the hours are regular and predictable. Number of hours varies significantly from firm to firm
Do you do house visits or meetings in-office after regular work hours or weekends?

Think about it - 1 hr consultation, 1 hr drafting and preparing documents (even with software) and another hour for the signing simply isn’t profitable at $200-$300 each, even at $500 a pop you’re still not making much.
1 hour? I know attorneys that can use will drafting software and get it out in well under that time. I know attorneys that don't ever take complicated estates because they think it's an inefficient way of making money. They'll just draft simple wills in high volume for non-english speaking clients (can't use legal zoom). One has a big law background, and says he makes very easy money this way.
The real money is in trusts. For lower income clients, long term care planning at $3000-$5000 per client, more if you also do Medicaid applications.
I know an increasing amount of attorneys that are getting Wealth Counsel and drafting with that too, so they're getting wills and trusts covered.

kittykatlaw
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2020 8:02 pm

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by kittykatlaw » Fri Apr 03, 2020 8:06 pm

FuzzyDunlop wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:00 pm
TandE wrote:
Sun Mar 29, 2020 6:14 pm




Just to be clear, I never said 9-5, just that the hours are regular and predictable. Number of hours varies significantly from firm to firm
Do you do house visits or meetings in-office after regular work hours or weekends?

Think about it - 1 hr consultation, 1 hr drafting and preparing documents (even with software) and another hour for the signing simply isn’t profitable at $200-$300 each, even at $500 a pop you’re still not making much.
1 hour? I know attorneys that can use will drafting software and get it out in well under that time. I know attorneys that don't ever take complicated estates because they think it's an inefficient way of making money. They'll just draft simple wills in high volume for non-english speaking clients (can't use legal zoom). One has a big law background, and says he makes very easy money this way.
The real money is in trusts. For lower income clients, long term care planning at $3000-$5000 per client, more if you also do Medicaid applications.
I know an increasing amount of attorneys that are getting Wealth Counsel and drafting with that too, so they're getting wills and trusts covered.
Interesting. I’m a private client associate at a tax boutique. We deal almost exclusively with high and ultra high net worth. In our practice we don’t use any drafting software. I consider the partners I work with to be very knowledgeable and leaders in the field, and they don’t feel comfortable with anything that’s out there thus far.

FuzzyDunlop
Posts: 28
Joined: Tue Apr 03, 2018 3:26 pm

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by FuzzyDunlop » Sat Apr 04, 2020 12:42 am

kittykatlaw wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 8:06 pm

Interesting. I’m a private client associate at a tax boutique. We deal almost exclusively with high and ultra high net worth. In our practice we don’t use any drafting software. I consider the partners I work with to be very knowledgeable and leaders in the field, and they don’t feel comfortable with anything that’s out there thus far.
Yeah, I had a similar conversation with the girl I mentioned in a prior post that works 7 days a week. She said they serve "ultra high net worth" (that exact phrase is on their website) people and they use forms over software. She said her prior firm which was much smaller used Wealth Counsel, so she was familiar with it, but most large firms use their own forms.

I think there are a couple of reasons for that. I was telling her how I didn't like Wealth Counsel and how it reminded me of 2nd rate software from 20 years ago. Like Windows ME or something pre- Windows 98 that was designed by software shops that did niche business/enterprise software. I think the reason there isn't better software is because there's not enough money in it for elite software companies to jump in and make something nicer. I also think small shops love software for drafting because like I said, it allows them to easily expand their practice and start offering estate law planning documents, without really needing to hire someone to do it.

But, even if a major software development company took interest and developed something good, I think many firms would still try to hold out as part of a marketing strategy. So they can say "Oh unlike those firms over there, the cheaper ones, we don't use boiler plate automated software, we draft them ourselves. We have lawyers who personalize them. We serve ultra high net worth individuals."

I think the reality of AI and automation bothers a lot of attorneys, so they go "I don't trust it, it could never do my job. I'm an expert, that's just a software." There are tech and AI companies that think otherwise. I always find it amusing too, because I know a lot of rich people that would have no 2nd thought trusting software over humans.

TandE

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by TandE » Sun Apr 05, 2020 9:22 pm

FuzzyDunlop wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:00 pm
Do you do house visits or meetings in-office after regular work hours or weekends?
Almost never
FuzzyDunlop wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:00 pm
1 hour? I know attorneys that can use will drafting software and get it out in well under that time. I know attorneys that don't ever take complicated estates because they think it's an inefficient way of making money. They'll just draft simple wills in high volume for non-english speaking clients (can't use legal zoom). One has a big law background, and says he makes very easy money this way.
With drafting software I can have a first draft ready within 15 minutes. You still need to double-check all your entries (e.g. spelling of names), which will easily add just as much. So yeah, guess it could be half an hour.

Also, I don't do volume work. I could, but I don't. I despise T&E attorneys who provide the same cookie-cutter plan to every client regardless of suitability. Especially if they don't stay in their lane and try to do the occasional complicated estate.[/quote]
FuzzyDunlop wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:00 pm
I know an increasing amount of attorneys that are getting Wealth Counsel and drafting with that too, so they're getting wills and trusts covered.
I've used Wealth Counsel (and I know of several competitors). It scares me, because it allows attorneys to get in over their head. Way over their head.
If you know what you're doing, it's a great tool, though it does have its limitations, and there are some things it just can't do.
FuzzyDunlop wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:00 pm
I didn't like Wealth Counsel and how it reminded me of 2nd rate software from 20 years ago. Like Windows ME or something pre- Windows 98 that was designed by software shops that did niche business/enterprise software.
I don't care about the UI, it does the trick. It's the text I have a problem with. I guess it's good enough for the average attorney, but it can definitely be better. For my personal templates (forms), I've cleaned up and/or clarified plenty of things where I don't like the way Wealth Counsel does it, and I include some extra clauses that Wealth Counsel doesn't have.

You can customize your templates in Wealth Counsel, but every time they update their templates, it overrides your customization. And they'll do that without telling you. Oh, their recent update to adjust for the SECURE Act is appalling. It's minimal tweaking, but I think it's just bad lawyering.
kittykatlaw wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 8:06 pm
Interesting. I’m a private client associate at a tax boutique. We deal almost exclusively with high and ultra high net worth. In our practice we don’t use any drafting software. I consider the partners I work with to be very knowledgeable and leaders in the field, and they don’t feel comfortable with anything that’s out there thus far.
Yup, I just don't feel comfortable with it. The software is "good enough", but I don't consider myself a "good enough" attorney. My clients pay top dollar for me, and I want to provide top service.
FuzzyDunlop wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:00 pm
the girl I mentioned in a prior post that works 7 days a week. She said they serve "ultra high net worth"
I consider anyone who needs estate tax planning and doesn't need LTC planning to be "high net worth". Of course, that varies significantly from State to State, as MA, for example, still has a $1M threshold, whereas for other people it's the federal $11.58M threshold.
I can't really give a number, but I would say anyone over $50M is definitely UHNW. Generally, speaking, for me UHNW is where 'basic' estate tax planning isn't enough. So where you might need multiple QPRT, IDGT, SLAT, maybe an off-shore structure, maybe some private placement products, etc.

To be fair, clients with lower Net Worth are relatively simple, and can easily be serviced by a decent mill:
Less than $500k, just figure out how to avoid probate (beneficiary designations on accounts, transfer on death deeds), draft a Will for good measure, throw in some POA and HCPs, and you're done. It's easy, and it shouldn't take more than an hour. If they have children with special needs or who are minors, then that might require some more work. Personally, I can count with my fingers how many of these I've had in the past few years, and most of those were relatives. Personally, I don't feel right charging thousands of dollars for an estate plan to someone who doesn't make at least that much in a week.
Between $500k and maybe $2m, LTC is a concern. Typically, some kind of Medicaid Trust to shield the house and some non-retirement assets. I'd also address issues with children, not just Special Needs, but also other issues, such as minor children, drug/alcohol addiction, divorce protection, business succession planning etc. If you include Trust funding (which, IMO, you really should), it could take a few hours... for your paralegal
The LTC planning is simple enough and form documents from a place like Wealth Counsel will do the trick. But it's important to realize it's not just legal work, it's also psychology and counseling. I pride myself on my ability to unearth the family dynamics, and to design a plan that's right for their family. Even though my specialty is UHNW, this has been my main bread and butter, just because it's relatively easy for me to pick up the work and there's sufficient volume to keep me busy.
But I do try to do UHNW more and more. It's a lot harder to pick up, and there are much fewer clients out there, but it's a lot more work, and I find it intellectually challenging, mentally stimulating, and always different. I could have several couples with the same net worth requiring completely different solutions, so that for one couple I may place their assets into two LLCs owned by three GRITS, whereas for another I could be trying to figure out how to use SLATs while evading the reciprocal trust doctrine, and for another I could end up with a QPRT and a CRUT into a DAPT.
I definitely understand why a lot of attorneys won't take these on, and if I think about it, it probably makes more sense to only go for the low-hanging fruit. However, for me, UHNW is the fun part. It's like, Medicaid planning is working on a Ford assembly line, UHNW is building your own hot rod.

kittykatlaw
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2020 8:02 pm

Re: Trusts & Estates

Post by kittykatlaw » Tue Apr 07, 2020 6:40 pm

FuzzyDunlop wrote:
Sat Apr 04, 2020 12:42 am
kittykatlaw wrote:
Fri Apr 03, 2020 8:06 pm

Interesting. I’m a private client associate at a tax boutique. We deal almost exclusively with high and ultra high net worth. In our practice we don’t use any drafting software. I consider the partners I work with to be very knowledgeable and leaders in the field, and they don’t feel comfortable with anything that’s out there thus far.
Yeah, I had a similar conversation with the girl I mentioned in a prior post that works 7 days a week. She said they serve "ultra high net worth" (that exact phrase is on their website) people and they use forms over software. She said her prior firm which was much smaller used Wealth Counsel, so she was familiar with it, but most large firms use their own forms.

I think there are a couple of reasons for that. I was telling her how I didn't like Wealth Counsel and how it reminded me of 2nd rate software from 20 years ago. Like Windows ME or something pre- Windows 98 that was designed by software shops that did niche business/enterprise software. I think the reason there isn't better software is because there's not enough money in it for elite software companies to jump in and make something nicer. I also think small shops love software for drafting because like I said, it allows them to easily expand their practice and start offering estate law planning documents, without really needing to hire someone to do it.

But, even if a major software development company took interest and developed something good, I think many firms would still try to hold out as part of a marketing strategy. So they can say "Oh unlike those firms over there, the cheaper ones, we don't use boiler plate automated software, we draft them ourselves. We have lawyers who personalize them. We serve ultra high net worth individuals."

I think the reality of AI and automation bothers a lot of attorneys, so they go "I don't trust it, it could never do my job. I'm an expert, that's just a software." There are tech and AI companies that think otherwise. I always find it amusing too, because I know a lot of rich people that would have no 2nd thought trusting software over humans.
Interesting to hear! This is my first firm, so I don’t have a great comparative perspective about how things are done elsewhere. (And, I’m a first year, so I haven’t been all over the place yet to various conferences and met people from other firms.)

I can’t definitely relate to this other person who works 7 days a week though. We are quite busy (even right now - thankfully!). The hours requirement isn’t crazy BigLaw level, but I generally tend to do a couple hours on the weekend. Sometimes I take the weekend off though, or other times there’s a minor emergency and it’s a lot of work on the weekend! At the partner level, I would say it is a mix in terms of work on the weekend. One has young kids and tends to save the weekend exclusively for family times. Another is a workaholic and there seems to be zero difference for this partner between weekdays and weekends.

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