Attorney Julie Fiedler
As a child, I always knew I would be a nurse. My father was a doctor. My mother was a nurse. I always wanted to help people who were hurting and in need. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. Nursing seemed like the perfect profession for me.
My dad died at the age of 43, when I was sixteen years old. It was a very difficult time for my family. Despite being a Stanford educated physician, he had never created an estate plan. Without even a will, my mother underwent the ordeal of a court probate while she was grieving the loss of her husband at a very early age. We all struggled during this time.
I attended St. Mary’s College and became a Registered Nurse. It was truly my calling. I spent twenty years working in local California hospitals in critical care units, working with patients who were fighting for life, and often not making it. I have cried with many families as they grieved the loss of loved ones. There were also many patients and families who were not grieving for a death, but for a life that was forever altered, through crises such as a debilitating stroke or illness.
Unfortunately, near the end of my career as a critical care nurse, I was injured and unable to lift sufficiently to continue working in that setting. Without having ever contemplated any other profession, I turned to a legal career. As a classic Type A personality, I graduated from law school at the top of my class, and was ready to begin my new career. However, during my law school tenure, my mother, who was also my best friend, suddenly died at the age of sixty seven. I was left to care for my elderly step-father (who was twenty years older than my mother. He never thought he would outlive her!), my developmentally disabled brother, who had been under my mother’s care, and an elderly aunt, who needed my assistance. Despite dealing with my own grief and caring for my relatives, I was thrown into the legal world of Conservatorships, trust administrations, and petitions to the court to correct the numerous errors in my mother’s estate plan.
My mother had attempted to eliminate the burden we would experience when she died, so we would not have to repeat what she had endured upon my father’s death. She had attempted to create a suitable estate plan for herself. Unfortunately, there are many people holding themselves out as qualified to do estate planning, who in reality are not! Many attorneys who practice in other areas feel they can just tack estate planning onto their practice because “there’s nothing to it. It is simply a will or a trust”. There are also many non-attorneys, often insurance and annuity sales persons who hand out “$395 or $495 living trusts”. These trusts are often so inadequate that families are left to spend thousands of dollars in court correcting the errors, when that is even possible. Often, there is nothing that can be done. The problem is that you don’t know that there will be a problem until it is too late. In my mother’s case, her plan was woefully inadequate! It was too late for her to seek quality legal advice. Everything she had intended to do to protect us backfired. And I was left to pick up the pieces.
After experiencing first hand, as a client, the pain and frustration when estate plans are not properly drafted, I determined that I had found my niche. I would endeavor to provide peace of mind to clients by creating quality estate plans for them. I have taken countless courses and studied for more hours than I can remember in order to learn what is necessary for people to really achieve their estate planning goals.
I realized early on from my experiences as a nurse, and as a caretaker, that estate planning is more than simply writing a will to pass property when someone dies. It must also include a plan for the possibility that illness or accidents could incapacitate a person. A legal plan must be in place to protect a person’s dignity, the quality of life and the assets he or she has spent a lifetime earning, in the event of death, or the difficult process of living with a long term condition. This is what I specialize in. And this peace of mind is what I offer my clients and their families. From someone who has been on both sides of the desk, I can understand and empathize, and yet also give the quality of legal advice necessary to minimize the pain and loss that families will experience. Contrary to what many people think, it is NOT simply providing documents. It is creating a comprehensive, individualized plan that will work when it is needed. Through my second career, I have again found a way to make a difference in people’s lives.