Sunday, March 21, 2010

Three Things I've Learned

My wife challenged me to come up with a list 3 things that I have learned from my profession that everyone should know.  Although bankruptcy is my primary area of practice, I have been fortunate in my career to have had broad exposure to many areas of law.  I have the advantage of learning from my own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others and getting paid to help others fix those mistakes.

But if I had the opportunity to share 3 things with someone about my profession and only those 3 things, here is what I would tell them:

  • Estate Planning.  At a bare minimum, everybody should at least have a will, a power of attorney for health care and a financial power of attorney.  Some people need advanced estate planning like a living trust to avoid unnecessary taxes.  But estate planning is more than trusts and wills.  Does your family know your burial wishes?  Who will handle your financial and medical decisions when you cannot?  Who would get custody of your children?  Why would you even burden your family with these decisions when you can decide those issues now? 
  • Proper Budgeting and Financial Planning.  In my experience, most of my clients really have no idea how much money they actually spend on even the most basic of necessities such as food and clothing.  If you can become the master of what you spend, then you can plan properly to save for retirement, vacation and unexpected surprises.
  • Having the Proper Insurance.  You can rarely go wrong with having more insurance.  You should have life insurance to provide for your family if you are suddenly gone.  You should have health insurance to prevent catastrophic medicals bills.  You should have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to protect your belongings as well as car insurance that does more than meet the statutory minimum policies set forth in the law.  I once handled a case where a young driver caused an accident which caused the victim to have $250,000 in medical bills and he only had $15,000 in coverage.  That month, I increased my own liability coverage by 500% and added a $1 million umbrella policy.  The total bill for this additional coverage was only an extra $50 per month.
Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give it regarding your legal needs is that you should try not to do it alone.  A piece of software cannot replace personal service or years of experience that a licensed professional offers.  Trying to handle your own legal matters without assistance is a bit like trying to perform surgery on yourself without the help of a doctor.  Things can go very badly if you make a mistake and there usually is not a second chance to correct it.

If you are in Southern California and are experiencing debt problems or need guidance in a legal issue, please call me at (619) 448-2129.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar, the San Diego County Bar Association and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

1 comment:

Angela said...

Thanks for the post! I agree, you can rarely go wrong with having more insurance. Everybody should make sure they are properly insured. The only negative about it, is that if you're not careful you can pay too much for your policy. Shop around. And once you've purchased a policy... continue shopping around. Rates change and your needs change.