If you’re reading this page I’ll assume you’re curious to see if I’m the right person to guide you through this process, and I commend you for that. I would do the same. In fact, choosing the right attorney is the first step – and perhaps even the most important step – toward putting the right estate plan in place. So with that in mind, let me tell you a little about myself:
I graduated from the University of Missouri and Concord Law School, and I am a member of the California State Bar and the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Originally from the Midwest, I now live in Southern California with my wife and two children. When I’m not working or spending time with my family, I volunteer as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for children in the Los Angeles County court system. I serve on the board of directors for Pacific Friends School in Temple City and as the PTA executive vice president for Field Elementary School in Pasadena.
After graduating from law school I built a successful litigation firm. But the truth is, I was lost. Every day was filled with contention, objections, and arguments. After filing complaints or cross-complaints on behalf of clients I spent my time and energy maneuvering for tactical and strategic advantage so I could destroy my opponent. Every day was a fight, if not an all-out pitched battle. I was playing the role of “hero litigator,” slaying my clients’ every foe. But I was posturing. Though being in the courtroom was certainly exciting, my professional life was less than fulfilling. In fact, it was fraught with tension and negativity. And I didn’t like the road I was going down.
Then my children came into the world and gave enormous focus and meaning to my life. And I love them – I’m still amazed at how much I love them. And providing for them, protecting them, and taking care of them means everything to me. But all my wife and I had in place at the time was a woefully inadequate “boilerplate” estate plan that we didn’t update when our children were born because the lawyer who drafted it never kept in touch and would have charged us another big fee for reviewing something he hadn’t put much effort into in the first place!
Yet I knew this left a big gap in the protection I was supposed to be providing for my children, and ignoring it meant I was not doing the kind of job as a father that I expected of myself. Now I don’t expect myself to be a perfect parent. I fail at perfection every day. But when I discover a way to improve as a father and become a more responsible parent, I put in the effort. Because pushing myself to be a better today than I was yesterday is important to me, and my kids deserve that from their father.
So I threw myself into learning everything I could about wills, trusts, and estate plans – a practice area I hadn’t really delved into since law school, so it was a big undertaking. But I was relentless in educating myself about the subject. Once I finally gained competency, I redid our family plan (which had plenty of holes that needed to be filled in) and I made sure that even if my wife and I weren’t around to take care of our children anymore, we could ensure they would be taken care of just as we’d want them to be be, both in the short and long term. And when everything was in place it felt incredible to know exactly how they were going to be taken care of, in detail, in every way that was important to us.
Why I Believe In What I Do
I know most parent are just like me. Their kids are the most important things in the world to them. They work tirelessly to protect their kids, provide for them, and raise them right. But they may not have really thought in detail about what would happen after they die. They may not really know how to plan for that eventuality and ensure their kids are just as protected as when they were alive.
I knew I could help those parents take better care of their children. And I knew that would be fulfilling, important work, and I would be making a real difference in the lives of parents and children … of families, just like mine. So I began to reinvent my law firm, and not just from a litigation practice to an estate planning practice, but to a whole new way of being an attorney.
One of the first things I did was to completely get rid of the old attorney standard hourly billing. In my litigation practice, clients would often have simple questions, but wouldn’t call me because they didn’t want to get a bill for the time they spent on the phone with me. That meant hourly billing was getting in the way of building full and complete relationships with my clients and inhibiting the level of service I was able to provide to them. So everything I do now has an up-front, flat fee structure. There’s never any surprise fees or unexpected bills.
And unlike the lawyer who drew up my family’s initial estate plan, I don’t want to just prepare a set of documents for my clients and then send them on their way without any real guidance, follow up, or ongoing relationship. I don’t believe legal documents should be the end result of, but rather they should be a byproduct of, the attorney-client relationship.
And because I value long-term relationships with my clients, I like to have regular contact with them and they don’t have to worry about paying extra for it. That enables us to continue building a strong relationship – a real relationship based on trust and friendship – throughout both of our lives.
Along with all that, I also think it’s important to provide ongoing reviews for my clients’ estate plans so they don’t have to worry about whether their plans will continue to work even as their own life situation changes. So I do that without an additional charge because it’s the right thing to do and it’s all part of the lifetime relationship we’re building together.
So what I’m really all about is helping you make the very best legal decisions during your lifetime, and making sure someone – the right someone – is there for your family after you’re gone.
If that sounds like the kind of relationship and level of service you’d like from your attorney, we should talk.
PS – Please feel free to ask me questions directly at Marc@GarlettLaw.com