Just kidding. I’m not dead, but at 55 I’m closer than ever. And clients have started asking. Once they sign new Wills, they stop worrying about their health and start worrying about mine. Their questions are blunt: What if you die before I do? When do you retire? Does my family have to use you? Does anyone younger work with you?

I needle my clients about their plans. It’s poetic justice that they question mine. It’s also reasonable. They’re not planning their future alone, but also those of a spouse, children, and often grandchildren.

Every lawyer grapples with these questions. Here are my answers.

Clients May Always Change Law Firms

First, no one is tethered to a particular attorney. Families are always free to take their probate business elsewhere, and we make it easy. We give each client their signed, original Wills, and enclose the notary record and signing ceremony with an electronic copy. We archive all, and can forward to another lawyer on request.

Any lawyer licensed in the State of Texas may appear for your executor in probate court. Any one that’s board certified is competent to handle an estate of $1 million or more. That’s my arbitrary rule of thumb when generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions start to matter to real people. For a list of attorneys near you that are board certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law, visit www.tbls.org.

But You’ll Never Have To Change

Second, most families want to return to the lawyer that drafted Mom or Dad’s Will. Again, we make it easy. Our phone number and website will long survive me, and are valuable enough that someone will pay to keep them in service for decades. The lesser part of that value is the systems developed on my watch. The greater part is the people that hire me. They have money, but love their family more, and are a joy to work with. They make this a dream job.

Third, we want you to keep returning, generation after generation, and we’re ready. My associate Christina Schuler is 20 years younger than me. Last I asked she enjoyed her job and was studying for board certification. She’ll be around long after I’m gone. We both contribute to the Texas Probate System. Together, we’re building practice and management systems that will attract clients and legal talent for some time to come.

I Promise Not To Stick Around Too Long

Finally, I’ve planned for retirement. When it’s time, I’m gone. And when’s Russell’s really dead, you’ll be fine.

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