Introduction to my new book
When I was young, I wanted to be a scientist. However, along the way a series of events guided me to becoming an attorney. The final “ah ha!” moment occurred when I was driving through the desert at night with my friend Russ. Driving, while hunched down and looking through the steering wheel (have you ever seen anyone do that?!) Russ told me the story of why he was entering law school the following fall. I have zero memory of what Russ said. I only remember the “lightning bolt” of feeling, with absolute certainty, that I was meant to be an attorney. As I write this book, I have practiced law for nearly 40 years. I have never regretted my choice of career.
My first clue of my future profession came to me when I was nine or ten years old watching the television show, “Perry Mason” with my mom. Every time I watched Perry in the courtroom, I felt nervous and my palms sweated. I thought, “What is going on?” I did not solve this mystery until after I became an attorney and engaged in my own trials. At the beginning of every trial, I felt the familiar tension and excitement in my sweaty palms. I guess as a child I subconsciously felt the calling.
Now, I am an “old soldier who has seen war.” I no longer fight, fight, fight in the courtroom, but prevent my clients and their families from ever having to go to court, at all, ever. How? By preparing, before “something happens”. The critical documents every person of age 18 and older needs, what I call, “The Big Five.” In Part I of this book I use real “horror” stories of what happens when one or more of the Big Five was not prepared in time. The right “paper”, the documents, plus the right agent for each job, protects my clients’ family members from ever having to file court proceedings, which are expensive, time-consuming, and stressful.
I once saw a documentary, entitled, “Scared Straight” about juvenile delinquents spending a day in prison, including being locked up in a cell, to scare them into stopping their life of crime. I wish I could create my version of “Scared Straight”; let’s call my documentary, “I Get it, Karen, Do the BIG Five NOW!” My film goes like this: At my office, I first film the boxes and boxes needed for my conservationship and guardianship cases filed for each ONE of my cases. I had to file these cases because the mentally incompetent person, which probate court calls “the Protected Person”, did not sign a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy before having lost mental competency. The next scene of my documentary would be filmed at probate court where I would capture on film the upset and stressed out family members waiting for their case to be called. I would interview some of them so my viewers could learn about their un-ending nightmare. Typically, they had to take time off from work and are usually paying an attorney to help them through the maze. They often dread standing before a probate judge because it is all so …. technical, confusing, and intimidating. They are mystified about the paperwork and legalese. Court filings and appearances continue until the Protected Person dies or resumes competency, which is rare. Even after the Protected Person dies we have to file the final set of paperwork with the court so the Conservator and Guardian can be formally released from his/her duties.
Part II discusses Trusts. There are several types of Trusts, each type of Trust is designed for a particular purpose. Unlike the Big Five, not everyone needs a Trust. Trusts solve many issues such as estate tax avoidance; taking care of a person with special needs; avoiding probate; paying beneficiaries over time; and so on. In this section, I guide the reader through the various types of Trusts and discuss the problems and issues faced by families when a Trust was needed, but not prepared in time.
Part III discusses Medicare, Community Care options, and Medicaid planning. Medicaid planning can save families hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the vast majority of people do not know the powerful tools and techniques that can be used to avoid paying approximately $375 per day (!) to the nursing home.
For many years, I have taught the material contained in this book at Holyoke Community College as part of the school’s community education program. I have been doing my best “to get the word out”, but came to realize that I had to write this book. It is a jungle out there, and a guidebook is sorely needed. This is it. As I have been guided in life, I want to serve as a tour guide for others. Let’s take the tour!
Sincerely, Attorney Karen G. Jackson