Generating Additional Sources of Revenue Through Your Maintenance Program


Your maintenance program will help you forge solid bonds with your clients and members of your clients’ families. Consider the latter for a moment. Inviting family members to social events, encouraging them to attend review meetings and workshops, providing counsel  to the family following a client’s incapacity or death… all of this allows you to bond with the adult children of your existing clients. Not only will your client’s adult children see the value of proper planning first-hand, they’ll know exactly who they want to design their plans—you.

Encouraging your clients to bring their advisors as well as their family members to social gatherings and plan reviews also allows you to form bonds with the advisors themselves, who can then become valuable referral sources for future new business. Many law firms struggle to develop profitable referral relationships. Your maintenance program can help you get your foot in the door. 

Once you’ve established a maintenance program, there is another opportunity worth exploring… advertising. Well discuss that next time.


Important Considerations in Creating an Effective and Profitable Client Maintenance Program


When it comes to maintenance programs, one size does not fit all. You should tailor your program to the needs of your client base and your firm’s capabilities. Also, as we mentioned last time, you have to limit the scope of your program. It’s supposed to be a source of steady revenue, not a loss leader. Accomplishing this requires offering services in your program that you are already providing free-of-charge, or services whose fees are insignificant. As one attorney with a successful maintenance program put it, “The administrative costs of billing for photocopies exceeds the income generated by it.”

You can also offer different types of maintenance programs. At EPLC, we have our main program, the TLC™ Estate Plan Maintenance & Fee Guarantee Program. We also offer a program for Medicaid clients, which basically provides enrollees with the annual certification they need. It is important to note, however, that our goal is to have clients who need nursing home care keep their TLC Program and add the Medicaid program to it as part of a package. We don’t want clients dropping the TLC Program when, say, one spouse enters a nursing home while the other continues to reside in the couple’s primary residence. Finally, we have a relatively inexpensive Will-based program for clients whose plans do not include trusts.

In our next email, we’ll detail the elements of our TLC™ Estate Plan Maintenance & Fee Guarantee Program.


Why Would Clients Pay for a Maintenance Program? Peace of Mind


Some attorneys dismiss maintenance programs out of hand because they don’t see why clients would participate in them. Don’t think like that. Maintenance programs are very appealing to clients, for two powerful reasons.

First, maintenance program helps ensure that a client’s plan is always up-to-date and capable of accomplishing its goals when the client needs it. By explaining this benefit to your clients, many of them will quickly see the program’s value and the importance of enrolling in it. 

Second, one of the main complaints people have about working with attorneys is the notion that attorneys bill for just about anything, whether it’s an email, a photocopy, or a one-minute phone call. Your clients will appreciate the fact that you will not “nickel and dime” them, and that there will be no unpleasant surprise invoices in their mail boxes.  

By addressing these two issues, a maintenance program provides clients with peace of mind—the same long-term benefit that motivated many of them to want an estate plan in the first place.

So, what services should be included in your plan? You need to offer enough to make the program attractive to clients, but you must also be cognizant of not selling yourself short and offering too many services. We’ll discuss the particulars of an effective maintenance program next time. 


How to Generate a Consistent Revenue Stream with an Estate Plan Maintenance Program

GettyImages-815165952Generating a consistent, reliable revenue stream is a challenge for many law firms. An annual maintenance program can provide a solution to this problem, and, in effect, function as a line of credit for your firm. 

In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss the elements of a successful program, the benefits of such a program to your clients and to your firm, how your plan can generate additional income beyond what you charge for the program itself, and more.  

At EPLC, we currently have approximately 600 clients enrolled in our various maintenance programs (we’ll talk about how our programs differ from one another in a future email). We charge $650 a year for what we call the TLC™ Estate Plan Maintenance & Fee Guarantee ProgramIf you do the math, you’ll quickly see that this income, which is both continuous and predictable, serves as a line of credit we can draw upon to cover any number of expenses over the course of a year.  

At this point you may be saying, “Well bully for you EPLC, but frankly I don’t know why any client would even want a maintenance program, let alone pay for it.” We’ll talk about that next time.


Improve Your Efficiency Further with the Power of Dynamic Interviews

GettyImages-1097026612Another powerful component of some software is the ability to do dynamic interviews. Let’s say John and Jane Sample want separate revocable living trusts and you collect the information needed to do each one. But what if they change their minds and want a joint revocable living trust? The software can help you make the adjustment. When you change the parameter the software then “knows” you are only creating a single joint trust for both John and Jane and it no longer requires you to ask questions for Jane’s individual trust, or enter that information, thereby saving time.

So just how much time can you save with the right software? With the simple click of a ‘Finish’ or similar button, all of a client’s relevant information will be assembled into customized WORD documents specifically tailored to meet your client’s needs. In effect, you’ll have turned 15 to 20 hours of document drafting into less than two hours of work.

Next time we’ll discuss how the proper software can enhance document accuracy and coordination.


Improve Your Firm’s Efficiency One Keystroke at a Time

GettyImages-859129286Greater efficiency is one of the keys to greater profitability. As an estate planning and elder law attorney, if you want to become more profitable, your firm must be able to draft an asset protection plan more efficiently. The right software can help you accomplish this.

The improved workflow efficiency inherent in computer software is sometimes compared to the greater efficiency automation brings to manufacturing. Consider the automobile. Building a Rolls Royce, where many of the required tasks are completed by hand, requires six months. Compare this to a typical sedan. That process, which can be roughly divided into stamping, welding, assembly, painting, and inspection, takes less than 18 hours.

At this point you might say, “My firm is not a document mill, we design customized plans. Cookie cutter plans don’t work.” You’re right. Fortunately, using the proper software does not limit you to creating a Toyota Corolla-like plan, you can use it to produce the asset protection equivalent of a Rolls Royce. You’ll see how next time.


Transform Your Practice One Who at a Time: The Accountability Chart

In the LWP system, progressing through the three levels of success depends upon your having the right people, the right “Whos”, in the correct positions within your organization. We call the graphic representation of “who does what” in a law firm an Accountability Chart rather than an organizational chart. This is because success depends on holding each “Who” in the firm, including the owner, accountable for accomplishing the tasks associated with each position.


Download the LWP Law Firm Accountability Chart here

Take a look at the Accountability Chart above. You’ll notice that the top box, occupied by the owner, has a question mark next to the word Entrepreneur. Why? The owner of a law firm is not necessarily an entrepreneur. He or she might be, but is not always. The skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to be an outstanding attorney are not the same as those required to be a successful entrepreneur. As the saying goes, law school doesn’t teach you how to be an entrepreneur or run a law firm, it teaches you the law.

Ask yourself: Are you an entrepreneur? Do you have a vision for the future of your firm and the commitment, together with the skills, necessary to make your vision a reality? If not, your firm’s success depends on your developing the vision and skills you need or finding someone—the right “Who”—to fulfill the entrepreneurial role.

Now consider the operations box on the Accountability Chart. In many law firms, the owner/attorney takes on the important duties of Operations Manager. At LWP, we encourage owners to avoid operations and instead bring someone on board who has the skills necessary to manage the firm. One of the key skills required of the Operations Manager is the ability to hold everyone in the firm accountable for doing their jobs in an accurate, effective, and timely manner.

It is important to note that by utilizing the tools and exercises we have shown you, many LWP members have discovered that the ideal Director of Operations is already employed by the firm in another capacity. The same can be said for other roles within the firm, including that of entrepreneur. The “Whos” you need to fill certain roles may already be sitting at your conference room table; they are just not in the right “seats.”

Next time we’ll discuss the four boxes in line three of the Law Firm Accountability Chart: Marketing, Client Services, Legal Services, and Finance/Human Resources.

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Does Your Trust Really Have Remarriage Protection?

As a lawyer practicing in the elder law and estate planning industry for 25 years, I'm always intrigued by what lawyers refer to as remarriage protections. Remarriage protection relates to the provisions that one puts in a trust to ensure after a spouse dies and a surviving spouse remarries (or cohabitates) that the underlying estate plan of the deceased spouse is honored and maintained. The truth is that trust systems in the estate planning industry have little, if any, remarriage language or protections. The general protection that trust systems provide for remarriage is that if a spouse remarries, they allow you to discontinue payments of interest or principal to that spouse, and that's usually limited to the context in a family or marital trust. Wow, that's remarriage protection?

Bigstock-Broken-Wedding-Rings-19863971 (1)Hardly. In the Lawyers with Purpose Client Centered Software (LWP-CCS) system, there are layers of remarriage protections available to the client. First and foremost, the trust system tracks all of the benefits granted to a surviving spouse as you design the plan and import data into the trust system. Second, the trust system tracks all of the authority that you give a surviving spouse as trustee, trust protector, etc. Third, the LWP-CCS system allows you to identify what your client considers to be “remarriage.” In our default definition, the language identifies that a spouse will be deemed to be remarried after cohabiting for one night. The software also allows you to customize your own definition of remarriage, and once that definition is triggered you are then allowed to customize which of the powers or benefits that you have granted a surviving spouse will be modified or eliminated, along with any conditions for reinstatement.

For example, if a surviving spouse has been named trustee, the software knows that and asks you if you want to remove the right of the surviving spouse to be trustee upon marriage. Secondly, the trust software tracks all beneficial interests of the surviving spouse, and if you elect to have remarriage restrictions, the software will show you all the different places where the surviving spouse has retained a right to benefit from the trust. It will also ask if you want to minimize or eliminate any of those benefits individually, not collectively. That is, you can pick and choose which ones stay and which ones go.

Does this seem too good to be true? Well, it is if you have regular software, but the LWP-CCS software has been designed around the needs of the client, not the lawyers. The good news is, once you identify the needs of the client, the software will put in the necessary legal language to accomplish the objectives that you have identified for the clients. This is what being a Lawyer with Purpose means, and this is what client-centered software is all about. Don't go it alone. Let Lawyers with Purpose show you how to do real remarriage protection planning for clients.

If you aren't a Lawyers With Purpose member and are even thinking about adding estate or elder law to your existing practice, or want to make your estate/elder law practice more efficient, join us in the room in Houston this October 24th and 25th. Click here for the full agenda and to discover more of what you'll get from this program!

David J. Zumpano, Esq, CPA, Co-founder Lawyers With Purpose, Founder and Senior Partner of Estate Planning Law Center


How Do You Plan For Blended Families?

There's a great buzzword out there in estate planning called planning for “blended families.” The term “blended families” represents individuals who are married but have previous marriages or relationships that resulted in children. One example would be a second marriage in which the husband and wife have children from a previous marriage, or one does and one doesn't. The question becomes, how do you plan for these individuals so they can provide for each other but still be confident that in the end, their children or beneficiaries will get what's legally entitled to them?

The challenge with blended family planning is that the spouses “trust each other” to carry out their wishes. The problem is, life doesn't often work out that way. After the death of one of the clients, the relationship between the surviving spouse and the deceased spouse's family tends to become more remote and diminished. As a result, over time the surviving spouse may forget or no longer wish to follow the planning as originally intended, or may no longer deem it relevant based on the new circumstances. More importantly, even if the surviving spouse did wish to follow the original plan, circumstances may occur that put the assets in danger. The surviving spouse might need a nursing home, or might face a lawsuit, or might remarry to another individual who could gain power of attorney and modify the planning after the incapacity of the original surviving spouse. There are so many complications in blended families, but there doesn't have to be.

Bigstock-Blended-Family-Word-Cloud-105173693The Lawyers with Purpose Client-Centered Software (LWP-CCS) system is designed to plan for each client’s individual needs and goals, including blended families. The LWP-CCS has extensive provisions that allow designation of particular assets, allocated and separated at the death of the first spouse for the benefit of the surviving spouse under the terms and conditions that the clients agree to. This permits the surviving spouse to continue to benefit from the deceased spouse’s assets until the conditions are met for the next stage of the planning to occur. For example, in many of our trusts, clients elect to have a trust for the surviving spouse terminate upon the spouse's remarriage or another terminating event as identified by the couple. Although this seems complicated, it's actually easy when you ask your clients. They are pretty clear on what they want. They're just looking for some guidance on how to accomplish it.

Perhaps the greatest final significance of using the LWP planning solutions for blended families is to protect the deceased grantors' assets from the surviving spouse’s unintended or unforeseen creditors and predators. This by far has had the greatest impact for my personal clients over the last 25 years of my planning for them. Unfortunately, too many lawyers today use the standard boilerplate trust, and most trust systems in the industry do not permit attorneys to do any extensive planning once prepared for blended families without expensive post-merge modifications.

That's why Lawyers with Purpose is different. Because we focus on purpose first, the software has been designed to always consider the client's needs, goals and wishes first, then the software puts in the appropriate legal language to accomplish those objectives. Although it sounds counterintuitive, it's actually easy, fun and valuable to the client. I actually have clients laughing as we design their plans; do you? If you want to learn more about how Lawyers with Purpose can help you plan for blended families in ways you never knew existed.. consider joining us for THE estate planning event not to be missed!  

Member click to register here.

Non-members click to register here.

David J. Zumpano, Esq, CPA, Co-founder Lawyers With Purpose, Founder and Senior Partner of Estate Planning Law Center