I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Courtney Abrams, Esq. at a South Bay Business Women’s Association (SBBWA) mixer in April. We instantly fell into the ‘What Do You Do’ back and forth that occurs at these events. Courtney struck me immediately as different, the passion in her voice for what she did was so welcomed. She really truly loves her profession and helping other families such as her own. I was so delighted that I requested she share her story with all of us.
My name is Courtney Abrams and I am a mom and an estate planning attorney in Manhattan Beach, California. I am so grateful to Julia for giving me the space to talk about what I do and why I believe it is meaningful and necessary for families.
Like many moms, having my son changed the trajectory of my life and career in significant and unexpected ways.
Having my first son – my little love – Madison, changed everything for me. I experienced joys I never imagined, who knew that a baby trying to roll over for the first time could be so adorable? But with motherhood came a new set of fears and worries, and I began to consider how I could use the law to protect Madison and my family.
Before having Madison, I almost exclusively represented clients who had suffered unlawful employment practices, things like harassment, discrimination, retaliation and wage theft. I loved representing individuals and found purpose in my job. After long hours and a lot of hard work, my career seemed to be on track, and I found myself recognized in various publications such as Forbes and Variety.
While I was very familiar with estate planning, only as a new mom did the power of estate planning become clear. This is because without an estate plan in place, I knew that my family would be extremely vulnerable if I became incapacitated or worse. I also knew that with a well thought out and drafted estate plan, my family would be protected from having decisions made by judges who had never met me or my family, and it would simplify the decision making process for my family should anything happen to me.
Recognizing this, I opened my own law firm so that I could protect families and individuals the way I knew I needed to protect my own family. In doing so, I became what Julia calls a MOMpreneur. Today, I help protect families and individuals by providing estate planning services. And, while I continue to represent employees as well, I am deeply passionate about and devoted to estate planning for families and individuals.
Estate planning, in its simplest form, is deciding what you want to happen to your minor children and property after you become incapacitated or die, and writing it down in a way that makes it enforceable. It is one of the most unselfish things you can do for your family.
I am often asked why is a will and/or trust necessary? Many people are unaware that estate planning is not an area of law that is reserved just for the wealthy. In fact, even families, like my own, with modest assets, benefit enormously from putting an estate plan in place. Without an estate plan, the courts, judges who have never met you or your family, are given the power to decide what happens to your property and more importantly – your minor children – after you become incapacitated or pass away. This process is long, expensive and public.
With an estate plan in place, you continue to remain in control. You are the one giving the directions and, while the process may seem scary at first, most of my clients quickly realize that it’s really not all that complicated. They just needed somebody to explain their options and provide guidance. I am honored that my clients entrust me with this important responsibility and I can give them peace of mind in this area of their lives.
Another common misconception about estate planning is that people should only do it if they are older. Not true. Putting together a plan for the guardianship of your minor children and how and when your assets will be distributed to them, is critical to ensuring that you make the decisions for their care if something were to happen to you.
Estate planning is highly fact specific and depends on each family’s needs. But, that’s also what I love about it – I am able to be strategic and savvy and craft a plan to fit each of my client’s long-term goals while, at the same time, making the process understandable.
For instance, some of my clients come from blended families. If, for example, a spouse wants to ensure that upon her death, her surviving spouse will be provided for, but wants to maintain control of how her assets are distributed once her surviving spouse dies (i.e., to her own biological children), this is entirely possible through something called a qualified terminable interest property trust.
Some of my clients come to me wanting to protect not only their families, but their business ventures and/or copyrights after they pass away. Through a trust-based plan, we can do this as well.
Another great thing about an estate plan is that it can be changed at any time. Many times what you think you want now is not what you want 10 or even 5 years from now. So, let’s say you select a guardian for your children who you later learn wants to feed your kids candy for dinner every night – you can easily change this!
Finally, one recurring question that I often get from potential clients is why not just use an online do-it-yourself service. While these services tend to be less expensive on the front end, many times I review the documents and clients are not getting what they think they paid for, not receiving proper instructions to actually effectuate the plan they have paid for, or not getting all of the important documents they need. There is also nobody to call if you have questions after the fact. The internet is great for so many things (including, for yours truly, my online shopping habit), but for legal services it often falls short.
I am so gratified by the career that I have chosen, and so happy that having my son led me down this path. I am also so happy that I met Julia who brought me to this space. If you or your family want to discuss your estate planning needs, or if you happen to have an employment question, please do not hesitate to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 601-4448. No question is too small.