All About Estates

A CAREER IN WILLS AND ESTATES – COULD IT BE FOR YOU?

This blog has been written by Sandra Arsenault, Law Clerk at Fasken LLP

As our fellow blog writer, Audrey Miller wrote earlier this week (here), new Census data indicates that the number of seniors over age 85 is expected to triple in the next 25 years. Could this be an opportunity?

This week we welcomed summer law school students and co-op law clerk students into our firm. As I chat with these new members, I always ask what area of law they are considering. Often the answer is Corporate, Litigation or Family law.  No one ever says, I think I’d like to go into Wills and Estates.

It is true, we don’t stand up in court rooms advocating for justice like TV lawyers often do. Most of the time, neither do most real-life litigators, given the number of cases that settle.

We don’t save innocent children and abused spouses from terrible situations like Family lawyers can. But based on my experience, Family law is not always like that either. Those moments are extremely rare, and frequently the results are heartbreakingly unfair, often leaving no real winners at the end of the day.

Perhaps we don’t sound as fancy, important and big business as Corporate law.

Maybe we don’t seem as exciting as Criminal law or as noble as Environmental law.

And yet, I’d like to invite those of you entering into the legal field and even those already well into it, to reconsider the often overlooked area of Estate Planning and Estate Administration.

Working in this area of law is like reading the biography of a thousand different and interesting people. These wonderful, intricate, sometimes fascinating lives are full of love and hate, wealth and poverty, success and failure, relationships, lies and secrecy. It has all of the makings of a great Netflix drama or a juicy reality tv show.

The work is new each day, simply by the fact that no two people live the same life.

Estate planning and administration is a specialty that regularly intersects with several other areas of law including corporate, real estate, family, litigation and even criminal, on occasion.

Estate Planning can be seen as helping people write the final chapter in their book, helping them tell their story in the way they want it to be told. They can leave a lasting impression through generous and thoughtful gifts, bettering the lives of people they love or making an incredible difference through charitable bequests. Testators can and often do show their love or dislike of others by including or excluding them as main characters in their final scene.

Estate Administration is really a helping profession. We assist executors as they step into the shoes of our hero or heroine to finish his or her story in the best way possible. Our role is to take that person by the hand, lead them through those final instructions, step by step, so that ultimately the story is complete.

This unique legal field challenges us to talk about and bring to light things that are not talked about. Perhaps new lawyers, clerks and assistants don’t choose this area of law because talking about death may feel scary and uncomfortable. The thing is, death is really our universal truth. It is what connects every human being on Earth. Talking about things that scare us can be helpful in facing our greatest fears.

Estates is an area that is universal and inclusive. No matter what race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender, the one thing that every human will face is death. Everyone’s story will eventually end. When exposed to this daily, it can allow you to understand how alike we all really are. In spite of all the hatred and fear around us, we are able to see all people as just people like us. It is easy to see we share so many common basic desires such as to be loved and remembered. And to pay as little tax as possible, of course.

Mindfulness is built into this kind of law. Working in Estates is a constant reminder that life is finite, that no person lasts forever, allowing me to feel incredibly grateful for each day that I have and for the people in my life. It helps me to see beyond my own problems and to recognize how truly small little inconveniences can be. I am more consciously aware of how I choose to spend my limited time and energy. Being happy and enjoying what I have is clearly preferable to being angry or wishing things were different and living with regret.

The kind of people you work with can also make all the difference. It seems people with good hearts often find their way into this field, perhaps not choosing it initially but somehow, it finds them. I work with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. They are kind, generous, patient and thoughtful. They are compassionate not only with their clients, but with their colleagues as well.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, the demand for good, experienced legal professionals in this field is extremely high. There always seems to be positions available and because of that, it can be not only an interesting area of law, but a lucrative one as well. And if the statistics are true, that demand is going to be greater with each passing year.

So next time you consider your career options, I encourage you to look beyond the obvious choices. You may just find yourself in a job you actually love.

About Fasken
Fasken is a full-service law firm with offices in Canada, the U.K., South Africa and China. We work with clients around the globe, advising on legal issues affecting all types of industry, government and individual objectives.

6 Comments

  1. Doris Bonora

    May 6, 2022 - 1:25 pm
    Reply

    thanks for the effort in trying to convince them to enter this field. it always seems to be a tough sell

  2. Felicia Routhier

    May 6, 2022 - 1:27 pm
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing your heartfelt insights into this profession. Your perspective certainly resonates with me and I hope more individuals can take that view when considering a career in this field.

  3. Barry Fish

    May 6, 2022 - 1:48 pm
    Reply

    Sandra, I have read pretty well all of the emailed articles sent out within the parameters of “All About Estates” but your piece generates my very first reply comment because it hits the real point of my Estates practice. My partner Les Kotzer and I used to figuratively “shout from the rooftops” about the volatility and life changing consequences generated by the expression of intent captured in a will and ultimately decided to express ourselves in “The Family Fight, Planning to Avoid it”, and then with Jordan Atin, “The Family War, Winning the Inheritance Battle”, then on our own again, “Where There’s an Inheritance” and our final book “The Wills Lawyers” and please, my intention in expressing all this to you is only to let you know that your thoughts and your feelings about the subject are the same thoughts and feelings that Les and I have…..and we worked many, many, hours writing these four books which capture the points you raise and many of the hours we spent were highly emotional. You can’t write in depth about the wellsprings of goodwill versus the agony of betrayal without shedding some tears….

  4. Dorota Turlejski

    May 6, 2022 - 2:19 pm
    Reply

    You summarized so beautifully what gives our work purpose. Thank you!

  5. Laya Witty

    May 6, 2022 - 3:06 pm
    Reply

    I always said this was what I wanted to do, and now I have the privilege.

  6. Catharine E Williams

    May 7, 2022 - 2:12 pm
    Reply

    Thank you for this lovely post. We are working on more estate returns that ever in my tax office, with our aging population. I always print out a copy of the obituary of the person who died, so that I remember the person, as I am doing the work. You are right, there is definitely a mindfulness component to this work. Thank you.

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