Jun 19, 2023

How Leadership Coaching made me a better estate lawyer.

Leadership Coaching

When I decided to return to practicing estate law, I wasn’t interested in producing cookie-cutter estate plans. It was time for a fresh perspective and a more well-rounded view of what estate planning can and should be. 

I wanted more than a transactional relationship with my clients. I wanted the process of estate planning to be a valuable and meaningful experience that would be more fulfilling for my clients and myself. 

A new mindset. A new toolkit for estate planning.

David York, in his book, Entrusted, considers identifying a family’s guiding principles, core values, life lessons and personal preferences as the first step of creating a successful generational (and generative*) plan. 

This first step creates a shared vision for the family and its resources and opens the lines of communication among family members. This describes exactly the kind of deeper interpersonal connection I wanted.

As you might imagine, facilitating this kind of personal exploration requires a different set of skills and tools than those taught in law school.

From consultant to coach, with a new approach.

That’s why I obtained my certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership and earned my coaching accreditation through the International Coaching Federation.  It was the perfect complement to my background in estate law and trust advisor to high-net-worth families.

Leadership coaching changed my frame of reference from that of a legal consultant – someone you go to get advice – to that of a coach. We’re on the same team trying to accomplish a shared goal. As coach, I provide guidance, mentoring, and encouragement.  

As the attorney-advisor, I lay out the general roadmap and support the client’s needs for information in the area of legal and tax planning.  There are accumulated assets to protect, taxes to minimize, and distributions to be made. That’s the mechanics of an estate plan. 

But as a coach, in order to imbue the plan with the humanity of the trust creator, you have to lead them on a journey of discovery. Putting on the coach hat enables me to bring the family together and let them (and help them) determine what the plan is trying to accomplish, the frameworks that will need to be in place, the discussions and decisions that need to happen, and ultimately what documents will need to be in place so that it can be implemented and fulfill the vision.  

It’s all about getting to the stuff that really matters – the values espoused, the lived experiences, and lessons learned. The things that every trust creator wants to pass on to their generational heirs.

At its core, creating a trust is an act of love. 

According to York, the foundation of what he calls the Entrusted Planning process, is aligning the principles and values of a family with their tangible assets, and prepares future generations to build a true and lasting legacy. It’s a process that draws from the very origins of estate law, which placed the highest value on who was involved—on who was being entrusted. 

Entrusted families have goals that are both deep and broad. They’re less interested in preparing their families to be rich and more interested in preparing them to manage, sustain, and carry on a rich legacy.

The Trust becomes a true gift, one that is grounded in positive emotional energy. To become a positive and sustainable emotional legacy, a trust needs to reflect the love of the trust creators and their hopes for the positive impact this gift will be in the lives of their beneficiaries.

We start by reconnecting the trust creator with their values.

To get at these deeper emotional elements, we use a series of exercises and worksheets that help people connect with the important moments in their life, the people who guided and/or inspired them. This life-lesson exercise is often powerful and moving as people reflect on their lived experiences and reconnect with important moments and people from their childhood, adulthood, marriage and career. It creates a mosaic of memories so that a clear picture emerges of who they are, what they believe, and what they to make sure is passed on to their heirs.

Let us coach you towards a higher form of Trust.

At Blacksburg Law, we prepare your beneficiaries for wealth beyond just the legal concept of a trust and take into account the age and maturity of the person or persons being entrusted as stewards of your estate, not just consumers and users of it.  It’s about transferring opportunities instead of just assets and sustaining it over multiple generations. 

If you’d like to know more about how leadership coaching and our humanistic approach can elevate an estate plan and become a Generative Trust, please contact us at blacksburg-law.com.


Generative Trustee: Empowering Beneficiaries and Cultivating Positive Change

According to John Warnick, founder of the Purposeful Planning Institute, the concept of “generativity” was developed through the writings and research of Erik Erikson, the father of modern psychosocial development theory. The generative stage manifests during middle adulthood between the ages of approximately 40 and 65. 

During this stage of human development adults strive to create or nurture things that will outlast them; often through parenting or contributing to positive changes that benefit other people. Contributing to society and doing things to benefit future generations are hallmarks of generativity. Warnick applied the term “Generative” to describe a trust which either by design or function seeks to have a positive influence and foster the happiness, well-being and flourishing of its beneficiaries.

A Generative Trust is designed to be a true gift, one that is grounded in positive emotional energy. To become a positive and sustainable emotional legacy, a trust needs to reflect the love of the trust creators and their hopes for the positive impact this gift will be in the lives of their beneficiaries.

Of course, a Generative Trust needs a Generative Trustee. What would you be looking for in an ideal Generative Trustee? According to Warnick, a key attribute of the Generative Trustee is she helps Beneficiaries think for themselves instead of robbing them of that ability. Some of the other attributes of an ideal Generative Trustee include: strong communication skills, life wisdom as well as a healthy dose of common sense, the gift of holding people accountable, a non-judgmental and friendly persona, seeing the potential in others they don’t see in themselves, and curiosity around what excites and fulfills others.


The Role of a Power of Attorney in Estate Planning

Estate planning is a crucial step for anyone who wants to ensure their loved ones are well taken care of and their assets are distributed according to their wishes. One essential element of estate planning is the appointment of a power of attorney. Let’s explore the role of a power of attorney in estate planning