Coastal Senior is a monthly periodical published in Savannah, Georgia and circulated throughout the Georgia and South Carolina low country. Bob Mason is its legal columnist.
Do you enjoy paying legal fees? I don’t . . . and I am one (a lawyer, that is, not a fee). As an attorney, however, I regularly witness situations in which a client (or perhaps a deceased client) attempted to save a few bucks on legal fees (at my expense, I guess) and succeeded only in creating a situation that cost the family many times what the fee would have been.
Ever heard the old expression “Penny wise and pound foolish”? It means, of course, that attempting to save money by cutting corners or “doing it yourself” may end up costing you more in the long run.
The most expensive plumbing job I ever paid for began one beautiful autumn Saturday. The leaves were golden, the sun was absolutely sparkling in a crisp blue sky . . . and the commode was running. Obviously the flapper-thingy wasn’t flapping and it would be a simple matter for a smart guy like me to fix it. First a trip to the Home Improvement Emporium for a left threaded tank wrench. Wouldn’t seat right. Next a trip to HIE for a polyvinyl noncorrosive self-seating throcket seal. Wouldn’t seal. Return to HIE for a new mop to clean the inch of water on the floor from the tank. Water continues to leak from tank. Elapsed time 8 hours, money spent $60. Monday, I paid a plumber $100 to fix the mess I made. Told me it would have been $50 if I had left it alone.
So I’ve made my point. I stay out of plumbing and Mack stays out of lawyering.
Next point: Be careful of what you read in columns (including this one). A client once read a Sunday newspaper real estate column written by a guy in California, and the client asked me if I REALLY knew what I was doing with a certain deed I was preparing. Seems the column made him very nervous. I explained that we were in Savannah not San Francisco.
Next point: Be careful of what you read in books and on the internet. It astounds me the number of people who believe that because Suze Orman says that a certain type of trust is a good/bad idea the lawyer/financial advisor/accountant they are paying must not know a thing if they disagree with Ol’ Suze.
Hint: California Real Estate Dude and Suze Orman have never met you, do not practice law/accounting/financial advising in Georgia or South Carolina, and they will be very hard (in fact, impossible) to find when things go leaky on you.
Next hint: Would you really attempt to diagnose yourself on WebMD after finding that funny lump? Or would you go see your doctor?
I am not suggesting you ignore columns (especially this one!), books, the internet, and talk shows. I find that clients who have made an effort to orient themselves are easier to work with.
I am telling you, however, not to let these sources become a “cost-saving” substitute for face-to-face time with a reputable advisor.
I am also telling you not to expect quality advice and services for free. The person you are seeking out, if truly qualified, will have spent years becoming an expert. Check them out and check their credentials.
Final hint: Buy the best advice and skill in a professional you can possibly afford. It will end up saving you a pile of cash in the long run.
Now for a good joke: It was a sweltering Sunday afternoon when the AC broke down. In a panic the family pawed through the phone book looking for a repair company. They called “Jake’s AC Service”.
Ring . . . ring. “Yep!”
“Is this Jake’s AC?”
“Yep. This is Jake.”
“Can you get right over here? It is boiling in this house, my wife has fainted, the baby is crying.”
Old Jake rattles up in a 1980 truck about 45 minutes later and shuffles around to the back of the house lugging an ancient toolbox.
“Holy smokes! Looky there. That’s an Arctic 3A . . . haven’t seen one in 25 years.” Jake rummages around in his toolbox and retrieves an old rubber mallet and with the skill of a surgeon carefully selects a spot on the side of the Arctic 3A and taps it twice . . . exactly three inches from the top grating.
The machine instantly whirs to life.
“AMAZING, Jake!!” Dad exclaims. “How much do I owe you?”
“Hundred anna quarter.”
“ONE TWENTY FIVE!!??? FOR A 10 MINUTE SERVICE CALL!!???”
Whereupon Jake fixes Dad with a level gaze, sighs patiently, and says “I shoulda broken it out for you. $25 for the service call. $100 for knowin’ where to hit it.”