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Celebrity comedian Jeff Foxworthy has developed a series of jokes that begin with the phrase: “You might be a redneck if  . . .” If Mr. Foxworthy was a lawyer, perhaps he might adapt that concept to identify some of the circumstances when an attorney’s advice and representation might save a person from headache and heartache with a list like this:

You probably need a lawyer if . . .

1) A person offers to buy your land, an easement across your land, or the coal, oil, or gas that lies under the land;

2) You are engaged to be married and you or your parents have valuable personal or business assets or assets that may increase in value in the future;

3) Same circumstances as in 2, but you have children by a prior marriage or business partners who share ownership in your land or business;

4) You have a home, business, farmland, or other assets that you wish to pass to others when you die;

5) You think young children or someone with financial, legal, or medical problems may inherit your wealth;

6) A friend or family member dies leaving assets and bills, and you believe that you are the logical person to help manage that person’s estate or trust;

7) It dawns on you that you may have a stroke, car accident, or develop an illness such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, or Multiple Sclerosis before you die;

8) You suffer an injury that requires extensive therapy or long-term care, or someone tries to abuse or take advantage of you;

9) A friend or family member suffers one of the setbacks described in 7 and 8, and you believe that you are the logical person to help protect that person’s assets and other business; or

10) Anyone tells you that you don’t need a lawyer to do something (BIG RED FLAG! – this statement usually comes from someone who doesn’t want you to get legal advice because the person knows that a lawyer would uncover the person’s real intentions and protect you from harm).

This list is our fun way of showing that everyone needs to think ahead and make a game plan to deal with legal, financial, and health problems in the future. Hiring a lawyer to help make that plan is like buying insurance – you pay premiums to protect wealth and income against costly misfortune, and then you hope that misfortune never arises. Likewise, the plan that your lawyer prepares may not stop bad things that you hope to avoid, but it may soften the blow and reduce the damage more than if you fail to plan.

Jeff R. Hawkins and Jennifer J. Hawkins are Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers and active members of the Indiana State Bar Association and National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Both lawyers are admitted to practice law in Indiana, and Jeff Hawkins is admitted to practice law in Illinois. Jeff is also a registered civil mediator, a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the Indiana Bar Foundation;  a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Indiana Association of Mediators; and he was the 2014-15 President of the Indiana State Bar Association.

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