Picking a service provider for estate planning assistance is often very similar to picking other service providers, whether that's a repairman, doctor, lawyer or broker. The key is not to be fearful because some in the industry are unethical or incompetent; unfortunately, there are unethical and/or incompetent providers in any professional industry. By simply checking out your provider carefully before you pick them, and making certain you're working with a reputable team, you can benefit from the many significant rewards that a reliable provider can offer you.
Back in the 1990s, a young man in his late 20s, who believed he was having an allergic reaction to over-the-counter medicine, went to his physician for a diagnosis. The doctor asked the man to remove his shirt. After viewing the man and the “rash” that covered his chest, back, arms and face (and the rest of his body,) the doctor told him that he, indeed, had a drug reaction, to cease taking over-the-counter cold/allergy medications and to “tough it out like the rest of us do.” The mother of the man's best friend, who was a nurse, diagnosed the man differently, needing only one phone call to do so. “It's not a drug allergy. It's chicken pox,” the nurse said, after hearing a verbal description of the “rash.” It was, in fact, chicken pox.
In recent days, several news outlets released reports regarding a Florida teen who has been arrested and charged with criminal offenses for pretending to be a doctor in Virginia.
What do these two stories have to do with estate planning? Perhaps more than you'd think. Would you say that all doctors are to be avoided or that the business of practicing medicine is a “scam” just because this teen (and various other men and women – including some licensed physicians) have engaged in fraud, or because some doctors are so horribly bad at their jobs that they cannot diagnose an obvious case of chicken pox? Chances are that you would not. Would you say that all lawyers are useless or that the business of law practice is a scam just because some attorneys are unethical and others are incompetent? Hopefully you wouldn't.
The same can be said when it comes to people in the business of providing services related to helping you plan your estate. Without question, there are some people offering such services that are not very good at what they do. And there are others purporting to offer such assistance who are undeniably operating scams. But those facts do not mean that everybody in the business of providing these services is a dangerous scam-artist who should be avoided. Yet, many times, you might read or hear that you must avoid all companies that provide estate planning assistance simply because some in the industry are unethical, corrupt or incompetent.
The key, when it comes to analyzing services providers who offer estate planning assistance, is, much like selecting any type of service provider, simply to make sure that you're working with the RIGHT provider. First and arguably foremost, ask yourself if your provider's service gives you access to an estate planning attorney who is an independent professional experienced in the law of estate planning, who will independently represent your interests and provide you with a unique estate plan specifically customized to your needs and goals? If your provider is a reliable one, the answer will be “yes.” This is an essential part of any reliable service.
If you choose carefully, you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have a single destination, and a single team of experienced professionals well-acquainted with you and your objectives, where you can turn to whenever you need assistance. If you do your “homework” and choose cautiously, just as you would do in choosing a doctor, lawyer, stockbroker or insurance agent, you can reap the rewards of having an entire team, and the resources that come with it, on your side.