A Note From Jeni:
I began my law career working at very large international firms in New York City and Los Angeles, before landing at a midsized law firm in downtown Los Angeles. I knew from experience that the impersonal "Big Law" firms weren't for me and I thought going to work for a smaller firm with closer to 50 lawyers instead of 500 would be more up my alley. But there was still a huge disconnect between what I had dreamed about when I went to law school and the reality of being a lawyer. I had dreamed about going to law school to make a real difference in people’s lives, on a very personal level. But in reality, working at law firms representing large commercial clients was totally impersonal, transactional and didn’t truly serve individuals and families.
I went to law school to make a real difference in my clients’ lives, in your lives. After seeing how Covid affected so many families these past few years, and how many people have been affected by a lack of preparation for the unexpected, I decided that estate planning was the right way and the best way that I could make the biggest impact on the families in our community.
Many people do not plan at all. Some do make an effort to put a plan in place, but do not make sure that the plan is current with their life and the laws. My own parents spent $6,000 that was very full of holes and unguided decisions and is now completely obsolete. They no longer own any of the businesses or properties in their plan, they have moved to another state, and they have changed their minds about end-of-life preferences, yet they have never updated their plan and their lawyer never contacted them again. So all they have is a worthless plan from 2002. And that’s really how estate plans fail. They fail because if a lawyer does not regularly following up with a client, making sure that their plans stay up-to-date, the client is likely to stick the documents on a shelf somewhere and forget about them. And, of course, that isn't malpractice, it is common practice. And I didn’t go to law school just to put form documents in place for my clients. I wanted to make a difference.
In order to prevent the mistakes I have seen, such as with my parents' obsolete plan, I realized that I would have to learn to help clients with their estate planning in a new way.
I opened this firm with the idea of bringing back the Personal Family Lawyer relationship - where initial planning is just the beginning of the relationship and I'm focused on putting in place a plan we know we will work for you and the people you love.
I choose to serve families like yours because I really care about what happens to you and your loved ones. I know that by facing the potential for incapacity and the guarantee of death in this way, you are going to make better life choices for the people you love and sleep better knowing there's a plan in place to map out what will happen when the time comes.
Some of the things I do differently based on my experience with the traditional model of estate planning are:
1. None of the planning I do is billed on an hourly basis. Every plan I create is billed at a flat fee, agreed to in advance, so there are no surprises. You’ll know exactly what it will cost to work with me, we will review your wants and needs, and you’ll even be able to choose your own fee. Then, after the initial planning process, you will have options to ensure your plan stays up-to-date throughout your life.
2. You will be able to communicate with me. I have specific office hours on weekdays that you will know about in advance so you can get a quick question answered. If it's a longer discussion, you can schedule a call online so that I can be prepared and we won’t waste your time playing phone tag.
3. Once you sign your planning documents, that is when the relationship really begins. At no additional charge, I will review your plan at least every three years. Plus I want to hear from you sooner if any significant changes to your circumstances occur.
4. Most importantly, we won’t just focus on passing on your financial assets, but your whole family wealth. When my grandparents died, they did not leave behind a lot of money, but much more importantly, they didn't leave behind any of their extraordinary stories about surviving World War II, life in the former Soviet Union, and immigrating to America. My memories to retell their stories are fading and my children don't understand the amazing lengths they went through to get here and to realize the American Dream. Money is a renewable resource, but our lives, our stories and wisdom are not. So I have a process to guide you to pass on more than your money-to pass on your intellectual, spiritual and human assets. It's included in every plan because while I can tell you to do it, you are very unlikely to do it without support.
These are just a few of the things that make my firm un-traditional. I’m the best fit for people who don’t just want to leave their family a set of documents that may or may not work, but instead want to use the estate planning process to get organized and to pass on a legacy of love and care and ease. All with the goal of keeping their family out of court and out of conflict.
On a personal note, I’m a mom to three beautiful children – and, what my children bring to this experience for me is the awareness that planning is something that you do for the people you love the most. You won’t be the one to benefit from the plan we design together – the people who will benefit are the people you love the most who will be dealing with things after you’re gone.
University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Artium Baccaleureus, French literature, cum laude
Hanover, New Hampshire