Last week, a client, along with his wife, came to see me about making some changes in his estate planning documents. It had been six years since I had last seen Mr. K. And I immediately saw the change in him. From the moment he walked in, he seemed very agitated. And within a minute of sitting down, he was dictating what I needed to do to accomplish his goals.
But that’s not the way I work. I like to have an open discussion with my clients about their goals – because each client’s goals are different. So I told Mr. K. that, before making any changes, I thought we should chat for a few minutes. I believe such a chat is essential…because it helps me do a better job of servicing my clients.
He wasn’t happy about my suggestion – to put it mildly. His mind was made up. But I hadn’t seen him in six years. And I wanted to spend a little time talking with him, asking him questions, and making sure I had the right answers. I do this for two main reasons:
- The first is because it’s best for the client. If your doctor hasn’t seen you for a while, he’ll probably tell you it’s time for a check-up. And if I haven’t seen you for a while, it’s probably time for an estate-planning check-up. It’s time to make sure the plan we came up with a few years back is still appropriate for you today. And it’s time to see if we need to make some changes based on age, physical condition, assets, income, death of a loved one, etc.
- The second (albeit more selfish) reason I want to have this conversation is because if I don’t ask these questions, and I don’t address these issues, I’m going to hear from my clients (or, more likely, their children) later on. And they’re going to want to know why I didn’t tell them how to properly plan and protect themselves.
So I asked Mr. K. about his health. He responded that he was “fine.” I asked him about his assets, and he refused to answer. I asked him if he had plans in case he became incapacitated. He announced that the VA would take care of him. And he refused to listen when I informed him this wasn’t necessarily the case.
I’ve been working with older people my entire professional life. And I know the signs of Alzheimer’s when I see them. I turned to his wife and asked her if he had been exhibiting any memory loss. And she affirmed my suspicions. He was indeed, it turned out, exhibiting the early signs of Alzheimer’s.
Why am I sharing this story with you? Well, it’s not to brag about myself. Rather, it’s to point out how important these regular “legal” check-ups can be. When looking at Mr. K., I saw belligerence, paranoia, discomfort at my questions (for fear he wouldn’t be able to answer them), and a man who kept asking me the same questions…over and over.
The conversation wasn’t necessarily a happy one. But it will help both of them. As a result of our conversation, I will now be able to provide his wife with much-needed support, resources, and information on Alzheimer’s. I’ll be able to encourage her to seek the advice of a neurologist. And I’ll be able to help prepare her for the long and difficult road ahead.
Mr. K., needless to say, was not at all happy with my observations. Who would be? No one wants to hear they may have Alzheimer’s. Life being life, I told him, I can’t always talk about happy things. But I told him that I would always be totally honest with him. And that I would always give him my best advice.
He then asked me a question about his will – a question he’d already asked me three times before.
- www.southfloridamemorylawyer.com for caregivers to Alzheimer’s patients.