Traditional estate planning is not simple, and a big reason for that is meetings.
Traditional meetings are on the lawyer’s terms
Traditional estate planning involves three to four meetings (usually), over the course of six to eight weeks. All of these meetings are:
- In person,
- At the lawyer’s office, and
- During business hours.
Some people make it work. If you’re retired, for example, you probably have more freedom during regular business hours. If you’re not retired, though, it’s hard to take that much time off work—especially if your spouse has to take off as well, or has to find someone to watch the kids. That’s a big reason why only 20% of millennials and 36% of Generation X have wills.
Even if you can attend these meetings, going to a law firm is no one’s idea of fun (even if you like your lawyer). Law firms tend to be intimidating and uncomfortable. You often have to deal with a receptionist and wait. A good law firm will make this a pleasant experience. Many firms, though, haven’t put much thought into customer service, even if they are full of good lawyers.
I once hired my own lawyer for a small matter. When I showed up for the initial meeting, I checked in with a dour receptionist. She told me, in no uncertain terms, that I could not meet with my lawyer until I had completely filled out a long questionnaire with lots of (I knew) pointless questions. That was my first experience walking into the law firm as a client. Even though my lawyer ultimately did a fine job, do you think I’ve ever recommended the firm to anyone else? This kind of experience is, sadly, still common in the legal world. It’s expected that clients will meet with the lawyer on the lawyer’s terms.
That’s also why traditional estate planning meetings often have to be scheduled weeks in advance. They have to fit into the lawyer’s schedule, and lawyers are busy. Although estate planning isn’t usually an urgent matter, it’s frustrating as the client to finally decide to get it done and then find out it’ll take several weeks and multiple meetings.
Of course, for a long time in-person meetings were the only option. You want to see your lawyer so you can get a good impression and decide if he or she is trustworthy; phone calls and emails won’t suffice. But now video technology and the internet have given us another option: virtual meetings.
Virtual meetings are on your terms
Virtual meetings solve the problems with traditional, in-person meetings. Their key virtue is flexibility, which is a virtue indeed in today’s busy world.
Because virtual meetings can be done from anywhere and at any time, they can work around your schedule. You can have a virtual meeting in the early morning, on a lunch hour, or in the evening after the kids go to bed. You can have a virtual meeting at work, or at home, or while visiting relatives. You won’t have to take time off work. You won’t have to find childcare. You won’t even have to put on shoes.
Virtual meetings are easy to attend—you only need a computer or smartphone and an internet connection. They avoid the expense and annoyance of traveling to a professional office. Best of all, you don’t have to wait in a waiting room or deal with a receptionist.
And think about this: you don’t have to live near the lawyer to have a virtual meeting. That means you have more options when it comes to choosing an attorney. I, for instance, can serve anyone in the entire state of Wisconsin.
All this flexibility and convenience saves the lawyer time and expense as well. It’s a win–win. That’s why virtual estate planning often costs less than traditional estate planning.
Lawyers are still catching on to virtual meetings, which is a shame. For estate planning, I think they are a no-brainer. They make it easier, cheaper, and, well, simpler. That’s why I offer virtual meetings, and hope they will become the primary way I meet with clients in the future.