This is episode one of three pertaining to estate planning ideas for physicians. Today’s episode covers the specific documents needed for a comprehensive estate plan.
This week is the first in a three-part series on estate planning. This is a topic that isn’t super popular and it’s kind of depressing to talk about, but it is so important for physicians to address this for their families and loved ones. My wife and I have recently put a comprehensive estate plan in for ourselves. And I think this topic is very important and timely. Of course, anything you hear today is for informational purposes only. So please consult an estate planning attorney familiar with your specific circumstances when seeking legal advice, hope you enjoy it. Hello and welcome to episode 103 of APM success. I’m very pleased to be joined today by note song SISA park Thompson, who is a co-founder of thoughtful wills and estate planning attorney and emergency and trauma nurse, and just an accomplished professional in many regards here to share a little bit today about her practice of estate planning. So notes on, thank you for being here.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (01:23):
Hello, Justin. It’s so exciting to be here. Finally. I know we’ve been trying to get together for a long time. That’s
Right. And so my firm, it, my financial advisory firm, APN wealth works with thoughtful wills frequently to do financial planning for my clients, my wife and I have actually, we prepared our own estate documents through thoughtful wills and had a great experience and getting to know note song and her, her partner, Nathan has been a real pleasure. And so we’re kicking off a three episode series on some estate planning considerations for physicians, and I’m really excited to be digging into this content today. So let’s all just start us off. Tell us a little bit, you know, you have a diverse background with two pretty different, pretty intense vocations in nursing and the legal profession. So tell us a little bit about sort of how you landed, where you are currently as the founder of this, a state planning company.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (02:15):
Well, I am so happy to tell my story. And first of all, thank you so much for pronouncing my name exactly right. I it’s a multiple, but I really appreciate it. Yeah, so I graduated from nursing school in 1998 and went right into critical care nursing and landed in the ER after floating there and just absolutely loved it. So I worked at children’s hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee a level one trauma center for almost 20 years. And I was in the ER for about 18 of those. And it was there that I really found my way to the law, interestingly you know, and a lot of your listeners obviously can relate to what I’m going to be talking about, but I saw so many things working with, with all these kids that had me thinking about what was happening on the legal side of things, whether it was informed consent or, you know, there’s just kids that stick out in my mind that I, I will never forget.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (03:12):
And specifically it was really drawn to child abuse and neglect and seeing what was happening on that side of things, your own child welfare, et cetera. So I decided to, to check it out and go to law school. And I found, I found myself a bit overwhelmed as I think most law students do because of all the legal ease, I mean, and the, you know, paper, chase type language and Socratic Socratic method that’s thrown at you and throughout all of it, I just kept thinking, why can’t they just use normal language? And I had a few professors professor Kidwell for my contracts class, and then remarkably professor how we Erlinger, who was my trust in the states professor. And he always said avoid using legalees where ever possible you need to explain things to your clients in plain English and simple terms that are comprehensible. And so that was something that I always wanted to do. And thoughtful wills is one of those things that I never thought was coming down the path. I mean, I always enjoyed my Chestnut states class. It was always so interesting. But Nathan, my law partner and I have known each other since seventh grade. We grew up in North Dakota and met each other in orchestra.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (04:38):
And so I’ve always been just in awe of the way his mind works, whether it was playing the Viola or speech and debate or science fair. He always could explain things to me in a way that was understandable. So he approached me. Yeah. He approached me. I was part of a program called moms every day. So I’m a mom of three spunky and spirited and sweet kids. And you know, like everybody, we’re also busy and trying to do it all. And Nathan said, I need you to help me start this business and I’ll let him tell his story because he, he tells a really great version of it, but it’s been almost five years. So yeah, so we are thoughtful wills. We do businesses thoughtful Wells, but our firm, his notes on a Nathan LLP, and we are a law firm. We’re both lawyers.
Great. So talk a little bit about your firm’s model. And this is one of the things that I was really drawn to it’s it’s, you know, the legal industry is just about as old as humanity. And it’s very slow to innovate and, you know, I, I had an engagement last year. I was doing some intellectual property work with my business and I was still like mailing checks and sending faxes noted to correspond with my attorney. And it was it was obvious to me that it was, you know, it just th that’s, that’s kind of the lifeblood of certain law firms and that’s, it’s a very traditional, you know, straight laced sort of stuffy kind of feel, and your, your practice is totally the opposite of that. So tell me about sort of the Genesis of this idea and this model, and talk a little bit about how it works.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (06:13):
Absolutely. I always love talking about this because, I mean, if you, even, if you look at the name of our law firm we use our first names, it’s note song, and Nathan, and that’s how we’re going to sign it. And so many law firms, right? It’s, you know, Smith, Johnson and LA, and that’s great, and it’s honoring their founders and there’s, there are re just to be clear, there are wonderful attorneys in the world, but when you look at commercials and billboards on the interstate, you can see why lawyers get such a bad rap. Because a lot of times, I think, you know, in, in many professions in the medical profession, the legal profession, there’s been a long history of just kind of talking down to people because you have this expertise and we have to impress people with how impressive we are, but no, it’s like a Nathan LLP thoughtful wills.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (07:02):
We’re just not about that because Nathan and I ultimately started this because we saw a need according to the latest poll, only 33% of Americans have estate planning or even just a will in place. And this is especially important for folks with kids, whether they’re, you know, in utero still, or, or they’re, you know, adults are 17 or 18, I don’t know about you, but I, I don’t want somebody else deciding their fate. That scares me a lot. And so I’m just thinking about this from the perspective of being a mom of three kids, who I love so much. And my husband, you know, we, we want to be able to make sure that they’re being raised the way we want them raised. We want them to learn financial responsibility, the way that we’re teaching them. I don’t want a court to decide that they don’t know my kids and they don’t know who I would want to raise them or teach them those things.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (07:55):
So really it was born out of necessity. We saw a need, but we also know how things are usually done. The traditional, like you said, it goes back to jolly old England. The way things have been done for since like, first of all, not centuries but decades. You know, you go into a law office, you get spoken to about all sorts of legal terms. You get an intake form that’s rife with more legal ease. And it’s, I remember when I created my will with my husband, we did it at his big, big law firms or reputable law firm in Wisconsin with his colleague. But I was sweating bullets. I was so nervous. The whole process is so anxiety provoking and Nathan, and I recognize that, right? Like who wants to talk about, you know, planning for after your death? Yeah.
What happens if I die and what happens if I die slowly. Right. But
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (08:46):
Even better, like, gosh, what happens to my kids are parentless. Yeah.
Or if I’m in a coma or all the basically worst possible things in life. Yeah. And I have clients to be clear. I have clients that I’ve been, it’s been like two and a half years and counting, or I’ve been trying to get them to, you know, put these necessary documents in place. And it’s so painful because it’s emotionally charged and anxiety inducing. Exactly. Like you described. And obviously you’re a lawyer and you experienced the same thing. So it’s, it’s kinda just, it’s, it’s been part of the process for a very long time. It
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (09:15):
Has, it has. And, and the thing is Nathan and I just there’s no, there is no law out there that says that it has to be written in a certain way. There are obviously certain elements that have to be part of a will and a trust and what we called coma documents, a healthcare directive and durable power of attorney. But you know, again, with, even with the naming of, of our nickname, for those coma documents, we needed to impress upon people that these documents are important. If you’re in a coma, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to die, but you’re incapacitated. And when we refer to them as incapacitation documents, people would say to us, oh, you know, I’m young. I work out every day. I’ll take care of those when I’m young or I’m older and feeble. And we would just say, okay, that’s, that’s great.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (10:02):
That’s fine. Do you drive a car? Do you eat food? Do you walk across the street? Do you have any medical history? So it’s really, I mean, in some ways we’re, we’re very candid and blunt about things because we don’t want to dance around the topic. And it’s so important. I mean, the time is now. And so ultimately comes down to protecting your assets. And for me, my greatest assets are my kids and my two fluffy sheep dogs, you know, like my husband. So I think everybody on the show can relate to that. Yeah.
Yeah. It was our son being born last year. That was the Genesis for us doing that at the same time that COVID was hitting the fan. And we still weren’t sure, like, why is this, you know, gonna, w we didn’t, we didn’t know how it was going to transform society, but there was, it was very lots of reasons to be alarmed. And obviously that rationale resonates with many physicians, especially in the anybody who’s like anesthesia trained, who has been in the ICU and has been responsible for like the life support of people in, in a pinch, like trying to run these COVID ICU and things like that. It was a time of where a lot of people were asking these questions. And so I want to sort of transition and talk a little bit about the documents as you prepare them, the sort of the battery of documents that, that represents what an estate plan is. So maybe you could just briefly mention each of those and then describe the role of each in a robust estate plan.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (11:31):
Yeah. I love that you used the word robust because it’s so important that it is. And, and another way we put it is you need to have a comprehensive estate plan, and that includes four documents. And I should also say too, I mean, not everybody needs a revocable living trust, but I’m just going to cut right to the chase and say that anesthesiologists and any physicians who are in pain management, you need a comprehensive estate plan. Okay. That I’m done. I I’ll see you later. No, but, but it’s true. It’s just the difference between you know, I mean, the income potential that physicians have and, and physicians and specialties like anesthesiology and pain management, obviously have a greater income potential than folks who might be in a lower income bracket. All of everybody needs a, well, I think with the exception of maybe if you’re single and you are really close to your family the state has a, will a program set up for you, but for a comprehensive estate plan, you, that includes actually what’s called a poor overwhelm, and I’ll explain the pour over aspect of it.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (12:40):
But poor overwhelm, a revocable living trust, a health care directive and a durable power of attorney. It cracks me up because sometimes there’s so many online estate planning, well, I should say, well, making services out there and they say, do you want a trust-based plan or a will-based plan? And that makes it seem like it’s one or the other. And it absolutely is not a revocable living trust should come with a pour-over will they dovetail together? And basically the will is a last will and Testament it’s, it’s your last statement while you’re still living? It’s the, it goes back to the word testimony and again, hearkens back to jolly old England, but it was the only evidence of, of your last statement on what you want to happen with your stuff, or who, who you want to take care of your kids.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (13:29):
And, you know, think back to you know, like the Jane Austin stories of how the families went inherit and the, and the girls couldn’t, and then the half, you know, the half children to have siblings couldn’t because they were born out of wedlock and we got to keep the money in the family. It all comes from that. Like Jane Austin probably was an estate planning expert come to think of it. And I love Jane Austin lots of substance of sensibility there. The will though, in a comprehensive estate plan, really governs who takes care of your kids, the legal guardian. We also include pet provision. So who’s going to be the guardian of your pets. I mean, I don’t know. I didn’t know. I just, I’m a fairly new dog owner and my dogs are they’re cuckoo, but I love them so much, but there’s only one person in this world who could take them.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (14:19):
Well, maybe to our paralegal, most she’s wonderful with them. And then Kelly, my sister-in-law, but it’s, it’s basically defining who’s going to be the guardian for the people you love the most and the animals you love the most in your life. It also allows you to disinherit people because the state has something called intestacy and that’s just a plan that’s set up, basically that gives your stuff to the next of kin. But if your next of kin is evil or rotten to you, you probably don’t want them to get everything you’ve worked your entire life for. So there are disinheritance clauses we can put in there too. And then when you have a revocable living trust, it’s this magical, it’s amazing. It’s this magical device that allows you to skip probate, just avoid it entirely. And probate is a, I love how Nathan describes as he says, probate is kind of like the boogeyman.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (15:14):
But really, I mean, it’s, it’s not that bad because it it’s a judicial proceeding that makes sure that your will is actually valid, that you weren’t you know, you didn’t have a gun held to your head while you were making these decisions about who’s going to get your stuff, but it’s also very public because it’s a judicial proceeding. And so you know, okay, prince, for example, all of his stuff is out in the open because the guy didn’t have an estate plan in place. Like what, what the heck or the, you know, the, the founder of Zappos? Yeah, I mean, all these celebrities stores, Chadwick, Boseman, everybody knows you can, you can look it up. You could Google it, go to California, probate court with a trust. Everything is private. So if you value privacy, you know, if you’re a physician and you, and then maybe, you know, a lot of physicians delve into rental properties and have LLCs and all that, if you don’t want people to know about all of that, then, then you need a trust. And so the revocable living trust avoids probate, which is great, cause probate can be very expensive. Typically it’s about three to 5% of your estate. So on a $300,000 state, for example that can cost up to $15,000 in probate fees, 15,000, that’s a lot of money. And you know, that could help your kids with college or getting their first car. My son just got his driver’s permit yesterday. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (16:45):
But you know, I mean, I don’t want to see $15,000 going to the courts. I don’t. So the trust is really great. That way we can go, we can dive deeper into the revocable living trust. That’s a whole show just,
Yeah, we’re going to, we’re actually, it’s going to be the next show actually that Nathan’s going to cover. So he’s,
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (17:01):
And that’s the thing. I’ll go back to Nathan too. He he taught trusts and trusts and estates at a law school in St. Paul, Minnesota. And honestly, Nathan has this amazing way of explaining legal concepts in a way that just makes it click like, like that. So I’m excited for your listeners. Yeah.
So tune in next week for the trust and probate, deep dive, if you’re wondering why all this stuff matters.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (17:29):
And then, you know, the, the coma document. So yeah, healthcare directive in, in particular, I mean, right. For physicians, do you think this would be a no-brainer, but you know, honestly it, sometimes we’re so close to it that we don’t recognize that we all need it too. And yeah, designating a healthcare. Who’s going to honor your wishes because relate that comes down to, you’re putting your life in somebody’s hands. Yeah. And there’s no guarantees in life. I mean, accidents and illness strike without warning. So that’s really important. And even though you might be like the most brilliant anesthesiologists in the world, like all your listeners, I guess there’s many brilliant anesthesiologists and pain management professionals. When it comes down to it, you need to let your family and friends know a, like what, how you want to be treated in certain situations in the medical situation.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (18:20):
And B you can give instructions about feeding tubes, CPR, assisted breathing, anything you want, anything want. And then the dribble called returnee. This one is a really, really important document. And so if you’re just getting a, will you, you should absolutely get your COVID documents too, but a durable power of attorney allows you to name a financial agent. Who’s going to direct all of your financial affairs. There’s a whole checklist. And it also lets just say that, okay, Justin, you and your wife and son decide to go to Fiji, but there’s a property in Vail that you want to get. And, but you’re not there. And you need somebody to act as your financial agent. This document can do that. So we’ll also, we can deep dive into that too. That’s also another show.
Yeah. Awesome. And in addition, you know, for each of these documents, there are designees that fulfill certain roles legally as part of your comprehensive estate plan. So maybe you could name each of these relevant roles within each of these documents and briefly describe what that role entails.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (19:25):
Absolutely. So with the will if you would just have a straight up, well then there’s the executor and a lot of people for that, some states they refer to it as a personal representative and that person, I like to kind of refer to as almost like a general contractor for your, your estate plan. It’s not a glamorous job. I’m not going to lie. Like I always hope that somebody is not going to nominate me as their executor. But it’s really important and you need to name somebody. Who’s going to be able to help manage you know, figuring out what your assets are, directing them ensuring that everything goes through probate correctly, maybe appearing in court. And so there are certain state requirements that if, if your executor is a non resident of the state, then you need to nominate an in-state person to receive notice.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (20:13):
Some states actually a Florida Kentucky in Ohio off the top of my head require that executor to be an in-state resident. And really it brings up a good point about why it’s really important to have lawyers involved in the estate planning process. These are really important documents and you don’t want just a, a template that, you know, you got off the internet. I, I tested it with one of the online programs that I named bozo the clown as my executor and cookie. I watched the bozo show as a kid and I really liked these clowns, which is kind of weird to think about today, but bozo, sadly last March. And so cookie who apparently says disgruntled old man in Chicago is now the executor of my state. So you need to pick somebody that you trust that can probably manage all of this, maybe, you know, in, in grief, after losing him legal guardians.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (21:04):
So these are the folks that you nominate to raise your kids. I mean, on the good, the bad and the ugly days. And again, I’m not gonna lie. Like my kids are wonderful. I love them. They’re spunky sometimes. And they’re starting to talk and talk back to me. So, you know, you have to learn how to do that, but you also have to learn how to spoil them on treat Tuesdays during the summer and get ice cream pet guardians. I think with the poor a it’s limited to those those roles. But when you have a trust, then that’s the vehicle that is used to distribute. You distribute your assets. So the executor actually is called a successor trustee in your revocable living trust, same thing, general contractor, they ensure that testamentary trusts are set up and testamentary is just a fancy word again, Testament, right? This is what I want to happen to my stuff at a trust is set up for for children, our standard provisions or anybody under the age of 25. Just to make sure that they don’t get a lump sum, right? When they turn 18 and go off and buy, I don’t know, my daughter would buy roadblocks. She would just buy tons and tons of roadblocks. Although
It’s doing really well. I only recently discovered what roadblocks is. Anybody who has like a seven to 12 year old is rolling their eyes and saying like, yeah, I’ve known about this for awhile. I, I haven’t yet discovered for my own kids, but I’ve, I’ve understood vicariously that, you know, these seven to nine year olds are all hitting up their parents and trying to like get money to plow into their roadblocks account
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (22:39):
To bill build called mean, mommy, there’s a game called mean Lonnie, wow. Like what you’re financing. I’m like, what is this about Juju? But yeah, so, you know, we understand that kids need help with their finances. So we set up, what’s called a child maturity trust. And as they mature, they get more of their inheritance and you can also set up, I mean, you could not let them get their inheritance till they were 70. That’s a little extreme, but you can. The nice thing is like, you can create this dreamland in your will and direct whoever you get, you have control over it. The, the terms we set up other kinds of testamentary trust to special needs trust for, for folks who have special needs. The only irrevocable trust that we set up, cause we really don’t like irrevocable trusts. I’ll let Nathan talk about that too much to stay in for that.
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (23:29):
Is a protective, lifelong trust for maybe a family member or somebody you care about a friend who’s a spendthrift right? Like they, they don’t know how to manage money well, but you want to take care of them. So no money goes to them directly, just go to whatever’s needed to care of them. And then also what’s our other trust. Oh, pet trust. And, and right, some folks just set up a pet trust because they care about their animals and we all know how expensive they can be. Yup. So successor trustee, and we also give the option of naming backups and backup backups. And some folks even have lists of like seven or eight backups super prepared. So those are, those are the primary roles. Those are the things. And that’s the thing it’s like when people come to us about estate planning because they, oh, I’m not ready yet. I’m really not prepared when is a good time to do this. And usually we have a lot of people come to us when they are either pregnant or have young kids. I didn’t, we didn’t create our estate plan. So my son was three and we were both going out of country together. And then we thought, oh, we probably should do this. Yeah. So yeah, absolutely.
So this has been really helpful note song. So we’ve got the, will the living trust, the advanced medical directors and then the durable power of attorney as we’re sort of summarizing and bringing this section to a close on the components of a contract, a state plan. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Notesong Srisopark Thompson (24:55):
You know, I think that one of the most common questions we get really is what do I need is now a good time to do this? Should I wait? And my answer to that is give us a call. We’re really a perfect balance between old fashioned law firm and technique technology driven, leveraging technology for your benefit law firm. But in that old fashioned way, we love talking to clients. So give us a call and we can help you work through those questions and decide if we’re a good fit for you and, and what you think. Yeah. So anybody
Who’s listening go to APM success.com/ 1 0 3. That’s the show notes where we’re going to post notes, songs, contact information to anybody who wants to reach out, perhaps get the process started, perhaps evaluate if you should get the process started. You can, you can do that there. So notes on, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you very much for joining us on this episode of APM success. Thank you, Justin. All right. It was perfect. Yeah. That was a great like fundamentals and background episode. So,
So do you want to, if if you may, if you will shoot him a text and let him know that I’m ready for him to step out of the waiting room.
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