An Ounce of Prevention: Three Common Areas

Attorneys are often thought of as problem solvers; that clients must be in trouble before reaching out. As the old Benjamin Franklin saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If we mix that adage with some sage marketing advice, plus provide free content to potential clients, the three items below should be promoted on lawyer’s websites to help clients avoid serious issues.

Power of Attorney for College Students

I know of several incidents, from the past few years, where college students encountered health or other issues while living away from home at college. A missing student’s parents were told that because he had just turned eighteen, that they had no rights to see any information on his class schedule or professors, nor even enter his dorm room. A LegalShield colleague’s adult son was admitted to hospital while at school and no decisions could be made on his behalf by the parents. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student privacy but these parents found out that FERPA also prevents any information sharing or decision making, without a power of attorney.

Informing all parents of college students that a proper power of attorney should be created for both health care and financial matters can save substantial heartache in case of a medical emergency, crisis, or the need to step in to manage a young adult’s finances.

Prenuptial Agreements

Earlier this year, there was much written about Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos’ divorce, including a piece here referencing a prenuptial agreement as necessary. While it’s a valid comment that Amazon was founded after their marriage and therefore any agreement would not impact the settlement, that view misses some of the benefits of an agreement before marriage in general. Educating the average person on the ‘why’ of the prenuptial will help change the perception that prenup is only for the rich and famous.

It’s helpful to explain to clients that if they have a lop-sided financial situation, with one person entering the marriage with substantially more assets, a premarital agreement gives protection. In addition, many are not aware that they can keep homes and other assets separate if they put their wishes into the written prenup agreement before the wedding. For business owners, many do not understand that divorce without a prior agreement may impact their partners also.

With the divorce rate so high, if clients are considering remarriage and there are children on both sides, the prenup can really help to lay out who keeps what in the case of a split. And very importantly, the prenuptial agreement impacts their estate plan, another area where there is not a lot of information on the reasons why creating legal documents help reduce ultimate legal costs.

Last Will and Testament

The statistics show that more Americans live each day without a will than not, particularly those under 54 years old. And since death is inevitable and often sudden, those without wills are risking the disposition of their assets, including any homes and businesses, and the guardianship of children. Six in ten Americans adults are rolling the dice by living without a will, but many think one is not required because they do not have a lot of money. We need to spread the word that a simple will prevents a long and emotional fight over inheritance and who raises any children.

Although it might seem that providing information on these preventative measures is giving up billings, it really helps people understand the legal steps that they can take to minimize stress. Borrowing from the medical profession, educating potential clients on the risks of ignoring will preparation or a power of attorney for college kids and skipping a pre-nuptial might just lead to new business for your firm.

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