My name is Pamela Schwarz and I serve the team and clients of Erin Patterson Law in an administrative role. As the newest member of the team at Erin Patterson Law, PLLC, I have been given a unique perspective on the inner workings of a thriving estate planning law practice. Previously, my career centered in the religious sector, so jumping into the legal industry has been a change of pace for me with many new opportunities to help people attain peace of mind, albeit with relation to their legal, rather than spiritual, affairs. Now that I have spent time immersed in the work and culture of our firm, I can share the top three things I learned in my first 90 days at Erin Patterson Law that may help other non-lawyers like myself understand the importance of the work we do.
1. I am not a lawyer.
This one may seem obvious, but it is something that has been reinforced over the past few months. Although I have strong critical thinking skills and do a lot of things on my own – like my taxes -- drafting an estate plan is not something a non-lawyer should undertake on their own. My “inside look” has helped me understand that attorneys have experience, knowledge, and resources that took years to acquire. I have learned that their expertise can and should be trusted.
2. You are never too young to put an estate plan in place.
Over the past few years, I have witnessed firsthand how unpredictable life is. We cannot know what tomorrow holds, and we are never too young to be involved in an accident or receive a terrifying diagnosis. I always thought that having an estate plan was for people that were older, wealthier, or with more diversified assets. However, the benefits of having at least basic wills and powers of attorney in place as early as age 18 can be a great comfort in the face of life's uncertainties. In addition, I have been fortunate to witness the compassion our attorneys exhibit, even when difficult situations present themselves.
3. Estate planning is not a “one-and-done” experience.
I always thought that once you signed an estate plan, it need not be updated or given a second thought. While our legal team prepares comprehensive estate plans that provide for many unexpected situations, I have learned that estate plans can and should be assessed every few years to make sure that it still represents the individual's wishes, names trusted people to serve in different roles, and is appropriate for each unique family and asset scenario.
After a few months, I can see that our process has been carefully designed to help our clients understand the planning they are implementing and the value we deliver. The lessons I have learned position me to help others new to the estate planning process, and I look forward to contributing to the peace of mind we are committed to pursuing for these clients every day.