Navigating Estate Planning with Care and Communication with Charles McClenaghan, Esq.

Charles McClenaghan Esq.
Attorney at McClenaghan Law Group
August 23, 2023

In this episode, we sit down with Charles McClenaghan, a distinguished attorney at McClenaghan Law Group, to delve into the significance of estate planning and the art of cultivating enduring relationships with your clients.

Estate planning can be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s important to start the conversation early. Commendably, your clients have taken the step to address the inevitable topic of mortality. Recognizing the emotional weight of this discussion, you can assure your clients that while it may be daunting, crafting a well-thought-out plan is indispensable to ensure their wishes are meticulously executed in the future.  

As a legal or financial professional, one of the most impactful actions you can undertake is to initiate dialogues with your clients’ families ahead of time. By doing so, you normalize this discourse and alleviate potential discomfort for all parties involved.  

In this episode, we sit down with Charles McClenaghan, a distinguished attorney at McClenaghan Law Group, to delve into the significance of estate planning and the art of cultivating enduring relationships with your clients.  

By highlighting the value of orchestrating a family meeting, this conversation emphasizes that waiting until a moment of loss is far from ideal. The pivotal question arises: How can you encourage your clients to include their children in these discussions? How can you tackle the sensitive topic of mortality?

In this episode, you’ll learn key concepts on:  

  • Skillfully acknowledging your clients for their commitment to discussing estate planning
  • Reminding your clients that leaving a legacy of harmony rather than hardship is ideal
  • Conveying preemptive communication regarding parents’ wishes
  • Establishing early on the notion of a “lifelong relationship,” creating a foundation of trust and partnership
  • And more!

Connect with Lara Galloway:

Connect with Charles McClenaghan

Host University 2023:

About our Guest:  

Charles H. McClenaghan brings over 40 years of Legal, Financial and Real Estate related experience to his clients. A graduate of Ohio University, 1973 and Capital University Law School, 1979, he is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association, and the Columbus Bar Association.

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the FAST Podcast, Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, SVP of Channel Management at White Glove. Lara provides advisors with an opportunity to hear from some of the best minds in the business, follow along to learn quick tips to help you grow your business. From gaining new leads, to keeping current clients engaged and everything in between.    

Now onto the show.   

Bill Tucker: Hello and welcome to the FAST Podcast with your host Lara Galloway from White Glove. Lara, it’s good to be with you this week. Who do you have and what do you got in store?  

Lara Galloway: Thanks, Bill. I'm so excited to be here and I have a great guest for you today. This is a special guest because this is one of our White Glove clients, and I love sharing our White Glove clients because you know the voice of everything that you guys bring as your experience help so many other people that are listening that are also clients or maybe considering being clients and maybe just people who are trying to get some tips about how to do a better practice or how to do better workshops.

So, this is going to be a really special podcast because we get to hear from one of our own who is just beginning this journey and is going to be, I think, a pretty exciting podcast.

So let me introduce you to my guest. This is Charles McClenaghan. Charles McClenaghan brings over 40 years of legal, financial, and real estate related experience to his clients. He's a graduate of Ohio University and of Capital University Law School, and he is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association and the Columbus Bar Association.

So, Charles, I'm so happy to have you here today. Thanks for being with us.  

Charles McClenaghan: Well, my pleasure, Lara. I'm delighted to be here.

Lara Galloway: Well, I wanted to hear a little bit about your background before I get into some of the more specific questions I have around your estate planning and your workshops and how you deal with your clients.

But just tell us a little bit more about you and how you got into this field.

Charles McClenaghan: Well, Lara, I'm a small-town boy, Lancaster, Ohio, Fairfield County, and years ago, my great grandfather was the prosecuting attorney in Fairfield County from about 1890 to about 1920. So my father had always told me that, hey, your great-grandfather was a lawyer.

So that gave me some ideas.

Lara Galloway: That's awesome. So, it's a family legacy and then you get to spend your time working with families on their legacies. Right?  

Charles McClenaghan: That's true. And you know, Lara, if you were to come to my office, I would give you a tour of a lot of memorabilia that I've got in the lobby room.

So, I've got my great-grandfather's antique safe, which I had restored. I've got his graduating law school class, Michigan 1880. And I've got a land grant signed by John Quincy Adams that I've got framed and so you get a little bit of historic tour if you would.

Lara Galloway: Well, I bet those things could tell a lot of stories. I bet you could tell a lot of stories, so that's fascinating. I'm sure your clients love it when they get to meet you and learn a little bit about you and that history.  

Charles McClenaghan: Well, I do tend to tell a lot of stories. Sometimes my staff gets a little over the top with them. They've heard all the stories so many times. But I'll probably continue to tell them.  

Lara Galloway: Absolutely. Well, if they get really good, they'll start numbering them and they'll just holler out number 3, number 12. And then you can just save your breath. Everybody can laugh because they'll all know the story.

Charles McClenaghan: Well, thanks. I think you've given us an idea. No question.  

Lara Galloway: Well, that's a modified joke that my father tells all the time, and I'm sure I didn't do him justice. But anyway, so that aside, one of your areas of expertise, Charles, you say is estate planning. And this is really a very big topic for White Glove.

We're really passionate about it. We've been kind of trying to get a lot more financial advisors doing some estate planning work, and we're trying to work with a lot of you guys, estate planning attorneys to get out here and educate your community on this topic, but sometimes we get a little resistance and I'd love to hear from you because estate planning includes some taboo topics like death and passing things you have on down to people and knowing that there can be family conflict, a lot of strong opinions.

And I'm just curious, how do you and your staff deal with some of those tough topics?  

Charles McClenaghan: Well, you raised some very good points there. I would tell you that when a client comes in so many times, I compliment them on taking the step to come in and visit with an estate planning lawyer because hey, it is a hard thing to do.

And it's a hard thing to address your own mortality. Certainly, we have a lot of clients that come in here because they've just gone through a loss and they've seen the problems, they've dealt with the probate system, they've dealt with family fights. And so many times clients will come in and say, you know what?

We don't want to leave this to our children. So many times, it's their experience that will bring them here. But we do make a point to compliment people of taking the step, being responsible enough to think about their legacy and what they're leaving for family. And I should also tell you that when young people come in here and we do have quite a number of them, one of the stories, this may be story number 10, I'm not sure.

We'll number it as 10 from now on. I will tell them the story about when I was a young father and I was on my way to a business trip, and I'm sitting at the airport and I realized, oh my gosh, I don't have a will. I've done absolutely nothing. So, I quickly decided to plan out a will, ran down the fairway there to find an envelope and a stamp, and I mailed it to my wife just in case the plane didn't make it.

So, I'll compliment young people on being way ahead of me.  

Lara Galloway: Well, I love it. You tell a very relatable story. I mean, you're in Ohio, we here at White Glove are based outside of Detroit and you know, the Aretha Franklin legacy continues. I think that the courts found the handwritten will that her niece found tucked in a sofa as the governing authority to her estate over something that she had written a long time ago.  

So, anyway, there are a lot of people with a lot of money that don't necessarily have it all figured out and don't necessarily know. They don't want to deal with it to your point. Right. So, commending these families that do come in and that do say, I want to make sure that I pass the things I have to the people I love and that I do it in a way that doesn't cause them a whole bunch of problems.

Because nobody wants the legacy of a headache. A fight and broken family relationships, which can certainly result right from not having that, but it's still even knowing that it's hard to face it. And I just kind of want to dial in on something you just mentioned. You were saying when young people come in, when the heirs right, when the family members come in, how do you work to get those people into your offices?

That may be those extended family members in those heirs, because I think this is one of the things that's top of mind for a lot of our clients, this huge intergenerational wealth transfer. Right. And so, I would love to hear what you say to your clients if you're working with the parents, how do you get them to bring in some of those younger family members that may be impacted by that estate plan?

Charles McClenaghan: As part of our process, we offer to our clients what we call our family meeting. And it's optional for the parents. And sometimes parents want it, sometimes they don't. Sometimes parents want their children to know what their plans are, what their assets are. Sometimes they don't, but nonetheless, the idea with a family meeting is hey, bring the kids in.

And I'll tell the children, mom and dad have come in, they've done estate planning and they have named you, for example, oldest son. Here's the roles that they've assigned to you, and here's what your job would be in fulfilling these responsibilities, we would have, and I would express to the children, mom and dad's intentions.

Here's what they want and here's what they expect of you. And we do this for a couple of reasons. Any potential conflict, you know, that's certainly a positive. And we have seen in so many cases where mom and dad thought everything was just fine. Well, all of a sudden mom and dad pass away and all these issues bubble up between the siblings and you did this and you said that, and so on and so forth.  

So, if we've got communication ahead of time, and mom and dad's expectations and plans discussed with the children. That goes a long way. From our perspective, selfishly, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to meet the kids and talk about their family and their legacy and planning for their families, if you would.  

So, we see the family meeting really as a win-win situation.  

Lara Galloway: A hundred percent. I mean, that's something that we talk about with a lot of the folks that are using us for their workshops because we're generating those leads.

And those leads are typically people pre-retirees or retirees that are coming into the workshops. And they may represent, they may be at the head of a one or two or three generations that could possibly be involved in an estate plan, right? And could potentially be good clients for you.

And that's something that we talk about all the time, that with financial advisors it can be a little hard to say, hey, bring your family in and let's talk about your financial plan and see how we can help, you know, some of your children and their children's children that could be impacted by this.

The financial plan, it's like, mm-hmm.Yeah. Okay. But when you say, bring your family in, and let's talk about the estate plan that you're setting up and how you want to transfer this stuff and the impact that's going to have on the future of the people who will be inheriting this estate. We've talked to a lot of advisors and attorneys, and they're saying that that is a better tool to actually get those families to come to those meetings.

Do you find that case?  

Charles McClenaghan: And from our perspective, you know, for us, the worst time to meet the kids is after a loss. They don't know us. Right. Frankly, we know of them from what mom and dad said, but they don't know us. And if we've met ahead of time, they have a much greater comfort level and much greater confidence in the things that are going to play out.

Lara Galloway: Yeah, absolutely. So, tell me a little bit then about how those client meetings go. I mean, you're getting ready to do some workshops and then when people come in, how do you go from like that first meeting to what is going to happen in the next meeting to someone becoming that client and staying in touch with them over time so that you keep them as a client?

Charles McClenaghan: Well, naturally, a process makes that much more likely to occur. And we have a process where our first meeting is hey, let's get acquainted. Let's learn about you and your family and your children and their skill sets and their marriages. And I'll tell you this, when a client first comes in we'll ask them if they've dealt with lawyers before.

Sometimes they have, many times they have not. I assure them that we're harmless and our firm is not a litigation firm. We're harmless and we just need to have information. So, we will ask their permission to ask questions, and I'll promise them that some of the questions will be nosy, and they are.

So, we get acquainted, and we hate to turn clients away, but sometimes the chemistry just isn't right. And perhaps some clients feel the same way with us, and that's only natural. But again, we want to get acquainted and feel good about one another, and we'll explain our process.

And we'll build a timeline. We want to get things done within 30 to 60 days. We don't want things dragging out for months. And sadly, we have a handful of clients that have paid us. We've done all the work. We can't get them back to sign the documents. And for a couple of these clients, it's been years.

But they've got some kind of a mental block obviously for not coming in. So, from our process we would then envision once we've agreed that we're a good fit, we have a fee agreement executed with every client. We want them to know exactly what we're going to do and what the cost is going to be.

And we'll tell them we don't want to surprise you and you don't want to be surprised. So, we have fee agreement here. So, we'll then at that point, we'll roll up our sleeves and we'll start to find out what's important to them and who they want as fiduciaries. We'll learn more about the family and stability of the children, their levels of responsibility, et cetera, so that we can then start down the path of drafting documents.

That's perfect. We'll then have them send out draft documents to make sure that we've captured their intentions correctly and we spelled everybody's name right, and then have them back in for a signing ceremony. Coupled with that is a funding meeting. The documents we put together are absolutely critical, but so is having the assets aligned correctly with the plans that they've got in place.  

Lara Galloway: Yeah. And this is an area where our financial advisor friends can be so helpful Of course. So that we work with them to make sure that we're coordinating our efforts. And the thereafter then our process would then call for the family meeting. If the uh, uh, if the client so desires and if they wanna have the financial advisor at the family meeting, you know, we're happy to do that.

Yeah. Well, that's perfect because I was just going to ask about that. I mean, estate planning and funding the estate go hand in hand, right. So, making sure that you have that relationship back and forth with whoever they're working with as that fiduciary is so important.  

Charles McClenaghan: Yeah. Absolutely. The other thing is that we try to build an expectation with the client early on that working with us is not one and done.

That this really is a lifelong relationship where we'll expect them to come back periodically. Things in their lives will change, things in the lives of the people they've named as their fiduciaries will change. And plans need to be adjusted. So, we invite them in to come back anytime, of course.

Certainly, if there's some kind of a life changing event, and I will tell clients, hey look, if you haven't seen us in five years, I guarantee there will be things you'll want to change. Don't know what they are, but absolutely you'll want to change something.  

Lara Galloway: That's such a good point.

Charles McClenaghan: We'll send invitations annually if you would. Not that we expect everybody to come in annually, but a reminder and we also try to send out on a regular basis some kind of a mailing if you would, an email blast with some point. For example, we recently bought a building and moved in, hey, a perfect example to invite people to come see our building and update plans.

Lara Galloway: That's great. I saw something on LinkedIn I think the other day. And it was about how to do things, how to do client events or get people into your office as an estate planning attorney. And they were just coming up with some creative ideas. And one that I saw that I thought was just a really interesting idea was they hired a photographer and a setup where you could come in and get family portraits made for free.  

So, they paid the fee for the photographer and just had somebody coming in all day, clients coming in to take pictures of their family and say, hey, while you're here we'll have a session. We'll do whatever with just a quick update or just schedule a call for us to do a quick update.

But it was such a smart plan to get them in and I thought everybody wants a family portrait.  

Charles McClenaghan: That's so smart. And a great way to actually meet those younger people. So really fun stuff. Well, that's a very creative idea. Now I would tell you one of our challenges, we're a small boutique type firm.

Lara Galloway: We can have lots of good ideas, but we've always got that execution piece.  

Charles McClenaghan: Absolutely. And I think that's what we found so attractive about White Glove, quite frankly, is they can do that back-room stuff that we just don't have time for.  

Lara Galloway: Yeah, well, you're absolutely right. That's all the different things that you can do out there as an entrepreneur.

And anytime you're running a small practice, you have to be that entrepreneur and the chief cook and bottle washer too. And figuring out how to execute all the things that it takes to do any piece of your business, such as marketing and prospecting. You just don't have a staff to focus on that.

So that is so great that you're outsourcing that to us and letting us help set up your events for you and get you in front of a group of people that really need your help. And I think as we hear these stories in the news about probate, you know, people getting their states hung up in probate for so long and you hear tough things about families not being able to have a smooth transition or even just tough relationships.  

It makes it really clear to me that the value of you guys getting out there and educating your community, letting them know what they don't know, what they need to think about, how to avoid probate, how to maintain privacy, how to make sure they make the most tax advantage choices too.

And I think that's where those financial advisors and such come in. It's so important and I just want to commend you for being willing to get out there and be that community educator.  

Charles McClenaghan: Well, thank you. And of course, honestly, we enjoy that part. As I mentioned earlier, we're not a litigation firm.

We don't want to fight. Our motto here is why can't we all just get along? So if we can educate people or we enjoy doing that.  

Lara Galloway: Absolutely. I was at an estate planning conference a few years ago, just right before Covid actually. And one of the attorneys, I sat down at a table with a bunch of people I didn't know, and asked hey, what do you guys do?

Blah, blah, blah. They were like, well, I'm an estate planning attorney. I'm like, go figure, finding you at an estate planning attorney conference. But anyway, so I was just asking them a little bit about their past and it turned out that everybody at the table I was sitting at, and maybe this is what they had in common.

They said we are all recovering litigators. I said, oh really? They said, yeah. In fact, it's pretty common that people who go into estate planning are people who just don't want the fund anymore and they want a little more work-life balance, and they want a little more like warm, friendly, positive, personal relationships in their lives.

And I was like, I can see the point there. That really makes a lot of sense.  

Charles McClenaghan: Well, on occasion we have taken on a client that's maybe a little bit out of our lane. And without failure, we always regret it.  

Lara Galloway: That's terrible. So, lesson learned. Make a note. I'm not doing this again.

Charles McClenaghan: Right. My staff will quickly remind me, don't you remember so and so, and they had a similar situation. And we hate to say no to clients, but we do on occasion.  

Lara Galloway: Yeah, well it's required for, for growth. It's required for you guys to be successful in what you do. You can't do all the things and you can't please everybody.

So, I love that and I think that's a really smart way for us to kind of wrap here too. Charles, I always want to ask about your definition of success. Every time I ask it, I'm always just really pleased to hear the different answers because it's pretty creative. So, I'm hearing you setting up some success metrics in your company, like not doing that same thing that your staff's going to get onto you for.

But I would just love to invite you to share your definitive definition of success with us here.  

Charles McClenaghan: Well, I think work life balance is very important and we don't work on weekends and quite frankly, we usually knock off about two o'clock on Fridays.

Everybody has time to decompress and get to their families. And that's what's really important to us, so that we've got a good balance. We want to make sure that our creditors get paid, but we also want to make sure that we enjoy the fruits of our labor. So, I would say for us that that's success.

Lara Galloway: I love that. You're a family, you are families, and you're supporting families. I think that's nice to have that family metric in the middle to make sure that you're taking care of your own first and then taking care of your clients as well. Super. Great. Well, this has been a pleasure, Charles. I am so grateful that you spent some time with us today, and I'm very excited to see the results of your upcoming estate planning workshop.

I wish you lots of luck.  

Charles McClenaghan: Well, thank you very much, Lara, our pleasure and appreciate all you do.  

Lara Galloway: All righty, well, thanks so much for being here with us today. This was an absolute pleasure and Bill, I think we did it again. I think we got another really great guest on our episode today.

Bill Tucker: You got a really great guest and you got a lawyer to admit that he puts family in front.

He deserves high marks for a matter of fact. Well thank you, Lara. I really appreciate it. And thank you listeners for tuning in and listening to the FAST Podcast with Lara Galloway. If you have not subscribed to this podcast yet, please click the subscribe button down below. That way when Lara comes out with a new podcast, it will show up directly on your listening device.

We humbly ask you to share this podcast, rate it, and leave a review as this actually helps others find the show. Again, thanks for listening. For everyone at White Glove, this is Bill Tucker reminding you to live your best day today. We'll see you next time.

Voiceover: Thank you for listening to the FAST Podcast, Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, your go-to source designed to help you grow your business. Have questions about the topics covered during the show? Visit our website at www.whiteglove.com or email us at info@whiteglove.com.  

Don't forget to click the follow button to be notified when new episodes become available. The information covered and posted represents the views and opinions of the guests and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of White Glove. The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only.  

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