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Consumers Need to Plan, But Aren’t (Yet)

Since the first confirmed case in the United States in January, the COVID-19 crisis has greatly altered the day-to-day lives of the American people. While most of us are beginning to settle into to life as we now know it, the question that still lingers for many working professionals is “what does this mean for my business?”

For elder law and estate planning attorneys, this pandemic offers a unique opportunity.

Society as a whole is now being forced - through the media, news outlets, and a global pandemic - to face its own mortality, an exercise typically reserved for those 65 and older.

As the coronavirus has spread world-wide, we’ve learned, that while the older demographics present a higher risk, the virus doesn’t discriminate by age, posing a potential deadly threat to all those who become infected, compelling many American’s to reevaluate their end of life plans (or lack thereof).

What’s more, a study conducted by Health Affairs in 2017 discovered that roughly 33% of people in the U.S. have advance directives. A more recent survey conducted by Caring.com in 2019 also revealed that nearly the same percentage (32%) have a will in place, a 25% decrease from 2017.

The Health Affairs study also suggests that even though only a small percentage of people have executed these documents, 60% still agree having a will is important, with 30% of people believing you should have a one before the age of 35.

The combination of increased awareness and lack of planning documents creates the perfect storm of opportunity for lawyers practicing in these areas. Attorneys all across the U.S. are reporting an increase in the need for end of life planning documents, and for those who haven’t seen an increase yet, there’s a good chance its coming.

With the demand for these services on the brink of a boom, it’s important to understand the reasoning behind the lack of preparation in the first place, and what can you do, as an attorney, to meet your clients where they are. The Caring.com survey highlighted the four most prevalent reasons why respondents didn’t have a will in place.

The most common response was that they simply hadn’t gotten around to it. Respondents also reported that they believe they don’t have enough assets to leave to someone. The cost of drafting these documents and not knowing where to go to seek these services were also of concern.

Below are 5 tips to address the common reasons people aren’t doing any planning.

Spoiler alert: The tips below are all things you should be doing, even when there isn’t a pandemic.

  1. Reach out to current clients
    Current clients are going to be those most familiar with your services. Reaching out to your existing client base gives you the opportunity to see if there is any additional work they may require as circumstances can change very quickly in today’s current climate, and keeps your firm front of mind should they know anyone looking for these services.

  2. Touch base with your referral sources
    Many of your referral sources are likely experiencing the same pain points you are. Let them know how you are meeting with clients (video, in person, or phone). Ask what you can help them with. They may need some guidance in how to meet with their clients and you could be a resource to them.

  3. Reach out to past clients
    Past clients are most likely reading the same headlines you are about the need to plan. They may have had a family member impacted by the pandemic. Invite them to have a conversation with you about their current situation and whether there is additional planning that can and should be done.

  4. Host online events
    You can offer fun events for clients, like a virtual bingo game or a session on how to use video conferencing technology. You can choose to provide educational events just as you would in person. Another option is to prerecord important information you want to get out and offer it as an on-demand recording. What you do isn’t as important as doing something now, and continuing to do it. Your clients and potential clients may be uncomfortable leaving their homes for a meeting in the near future so you will want to be prepared to continue communicating and educating online. For more information on how to host an online event, see our 3-part webinar series on this topic:
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  5. Develop a new marketing plan
    Marketing is more important now than ever. If you had a marketing plan prior to COVID-19, it’s time to revise it. Your efforts will now involve far more online marketing, use of social media, webinars, and more. There’s no reason this type of online marketing shouldn’t continue, even when all of us are allowed to gather safely in person. Take time now to think through what you will do for at least the next three to six months. You have a rare window of opportunity where many of your clients and potential clients are at home and are on their computer, smart phone or tablet searching for information. Now is the time to reach out to them with helpful content and continue providing them with useful information.

You don’t have to do any of this alone. ElderCounsel and Law as a Business (LAB) Services are here to help. LAB Services is your custom consultant for practice development, marketing, and much more. ElderCounsel is here to support you in your elder law practice with education, document drafting and more. 

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