Dear Michael: We've been trying to get our estate planning done for years. Now, we are semi-retired and spend the winter in Arizona and summers in North Dakota helping our son with the farm operation. Do you know of anyone in Arizona who does estate planning? We'd like to get this done, but our only free time is when we are down south. Nowadays, we're so busy with planting and spraying, we just can't find the time. – Snowbirds From Dakota

Dear Snowbirds From Dakota:

I do get a lot of phone calls and inquiries along this line. The problem is most practicing attorneys in Arizona do not have a license in North or South Dakota and, therefore, unless you become residents of Arizona (spend more than six months of the year there), a North Dakota licensed attorney will have to help you.

You may be able to find an attorney who, like yourselves, is retired and living in Arizona during the winter months and s/he might be able to help you.

Other than that, all I can tell you is if you had any other 'emergency' situation, you would make time for it.

I'm always amazed when I talk to people about meeting them in various places and during the course of our conversation I find they've been to Bismarck for doctor's visits, eye exams, weddings, shopping and all other kinds of things. So, I'm not so sure if it's not having the time or just not making it a priority.

Of course, many people feel that it's going to take multiple meetings (which it is) that they can't commit to in the short time frame they have open – unlike a doctor visit or shopping trip.

However, I have many clients from Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming and Montana that I've never met face to face. Every single one of our meetings has started with an interview on the phone, followed up by a summation of the conversation I send out to them summarizing their thoughts and ideas.

Once they receive this, we talk again on the phone and discuss their various options and what they'd like to do. Again, I summarize these comments in a follow up letter and the process goes on and on until they feel like they have a summary they can take to their local attorney for drafting.

Once the documents are drafted into a legal framework by an attorney, they often call me again to review the document and ask me what other people have done in their situation. Sometimes they need to call their attorney again and have the draft tweaked here and there, but eventually, they get what the estate plan they want.  

So, if it's possible for someone to do their estate counseling with me from another state – whom I've never met face to face – you'd think it would be possible for someone from this area to come in and visit with me for an hour or so – tell me what they are thinking – what things keep them up at night – and if you head south to warmer climes in the fall, we can still keep in contact by phone, email, or with the incredible technology of Skype where CAN actually talk face to face.

I know when the spring and summer season comes, everyone heads out to the fields like a hunting dog on opening day, with nothing else on their minds except the task at hand. Then, by the time they finish up in the fall, it's getting close to Thanksgiving, which leads to Christmas which leads to everyone heading south again and another year goes by without the future of your family farm decided once again.

If you're like many farmers, there's always that wet and rainy streak where you can't do much in the fields. That's the time to call our office, tell us you'll be in that day or the next and we can get you the information – via email – of what we need to have you bring with you. Then, you can come in and visit and we'll start the process of getting you the estate plan you want – whether that's face to face, via email or regular mail, or by phone.

Those who fail to plan will plan to fail. If there's a will, there's a way. If there's a way to get the right will, find a day that works for you.