Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - Here's to the Late Bloomers


"I'll tell you, there is nothing better in life than being a late bloomer. I believe that success can happen at any time and at any age."
Salma Hayek


Last Saturday - November 11 - I planted kale and arugula sprouts in my backyard garden.  

To some, planting vegetables so late in the season may sound foolhardy. But with our growing conditions here in Harmony and my green thumb, there's still plenty of time to produce lots of delicious, healthy crops. In fact, vegetables grow better when our nights get cooler.

On January 2, 2018 - at the age of 65 - I will be launching a new business enterprise.  

Some of my friends have questioned why I would do such a thing when I'm already at an age when lots of folks are ready to turn themselves out to pasture. Time to hang it up, slow down, and learn how to play golf, they say.

I don't see it that way. To me, I'm still in the middle of my growing season. I still have some blooms left in me. I may not have as much energy as I did when I was 35, but I have more insight, life wisdom, human understanding, and useful knowledge. I think I can still bring great value to the table for those who want to get their legal and retirement affairs in order.

Many folks my age have discovered a new passion and have gone on to do exceptional things after "normal" retirement age. For example, Colonel Sanders was 65 when he launched the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. From there, he went on to become a multimillionaire and a world-famous icon. Grandma Moses was 75 when she first took up painting. One of her 3,600 works, Sugaring Off, which she painted when she was 83 years old, sold a few years ago for $1.2 million.  

At my "advanced age," I have discovered a new mission: I want to deliver first-class professional planning services to middle income families conveniently and at an affordable price.  

Middle-class clients today find themselves on the horns of a dilemma when it comes to wills, trusts, and other planning tools: Average consumers consider traditional law firms too slow, too expensive, and largely unapproachable. As a result, many Americans have turned to Legal Zoom and other online services. Sadly, the online route is often dangerous and fraught with serious mistakes. The results can be disastrous.

Case in point: In Aldrich v. Basile (2014), the Florida Supreme Court adjudicated the estate of Ann Aldrich. She intended that her entire estate go to her brother James. Unfortunately, Ann had prepared both a will and an amendment by herself using "E-Z Legal Forms." Both turned out to be defective under Florida law.

The self-made will had no residuary clause, so much of Ann's property was not covered and did not go to James. Ann tried to fix that mistake with an amendment or "codicil," but the amendment wasn't witnessed correctly so the court threw it out.

Two of Ann's nieces who were not included in the will contested the will during probate, arguing that they were entitled to part of the estate that was not specifically included in the document. They argued that because the will didn't have a residuary clause, the unnamed assets should pass through Florida's laws of intestacy.

After more than four years of legal wrangling, the court ruled that much of Ann's substantial estate went to the two nieces, whom she did not like. Although the court seemed sympathetic to James Aldrich's plight, it ultimately found that any other interpretation would require the court to rewrite the will to include provisions that Ann Aldrich did not specify.
Justice Barbara Pariente said the case reminded her of the old adage, "penny wise and pound foolish," for had Ann Aldrich used a qualified attorney to draw up her will, her brother likely would have wound up with the full estate as she intended.

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Tragic messes like the Aldrich case are all too common and altogether unacceptable. Besides traditional law firms and online services like Legal Zoom and its ilk, I believe there is a third way, a better way. I have discovered that better way and I'm prepared to offer it to the good people of Central Florida in January. I am building my new business around this simple idea:  Middle Income Families Deserve Professional And Convenient Estate Planning and Retirement Planning Services at an Affordable Price.    

So, when is it too late to plant? For me, not yet. I still have some growing and blooming to do. As Robert Frost wrote, "I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep,   And miles to go before I sleep."

Can't wait for January.

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