Why We Love Estate Planning.

We don't only treat Estate Planning as a career - we share a passion for it that was formed by our personal experiences. Those experiences aren't only why we do what we do, they're why we care so much about protecting you and your family.

Blanche's Story.

Hello! My name is Blanche and I am the owner and solo practitioner of The Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith, P.C. As you will see throughout my website, my business cards, my marketing materials, etc. - I use the color of slate blue. What does that have to do with why I practice law in estate planning and probate, as well as related real property and marital interests law? Well, it’s a long story, but I would like to share it with you because it is a reminder to me of a person I loved and admired all of my life – my Mom.

Although I grew up in New Orleans, I moved to Texas in my 20s, went to law school at South Texas College of Law in Houston and, upon graduation, I was a litigator in Federal Court for many, many years. Interestingly, although I was not in estate planning at the time, per se, I was many times on the other end trying to defeat trusts and other estate plans which gave me an invaluable, side-line education on how estate plans should be drafted and why you need to understand all the underpinning laws in other fields in order to create and integrated estate plan.

While my Mom was in her late 50’s, she started having memory issues and was eventually diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's (actually Lewy Body Syndrome). Before we even knew what we were dealing with, my Dad had a stroke that left him mentally and physically incapacitated. He recovered somewhat, but he was never quite “the same”. My Mom and Dad hid things well and, in fact, we thought they had a long-term care plan in place, i.e. savings, insurance, investments... something since they worked all of their lives. That would soon be tested as the truth of my Mom’s condition began to surface. She began having problems at her job and her office tried to fire her, thinking that she wasn’t doing her job well anymore. Now, in hindsight, we know that it was the disease. Anyway, she was going to lose her “pension”. So, I represented her and negotiated a deal so she would be able to leave the company with dignity and keep her pension. “OK,” I thought, “she has a pension–GREAT!” But, I never found out how much that “pension” was...

Eventually, my sister and I started realizing and admitting to ourselves that something was REALLY off with my Mom and Dad. When we asked about a Will, etc., they said they had none. So, of course, I contacted some lawyers in New Orleans, and we had both my Mom and Dad execute their Wills, Powers of Attorney, Medical Powers of Attorney and Directives, and they chose to name my sister and me as the Agents under the Powers. My sister lives in New Orleans, and she took care of them for a long time there. Eventually, after my parents refused to evacuate for Hurricane Katrina, we moved them here to The Woodlands and sold their house–I knew my Mom was meant to be near me. We put them in Assisted Living at a very nice place near me, but I quickly learned that nice places are outrageously expensive. This is when the truth of their financial situation hit! As it turned out, they had NOTHING (at least when you are talking about long term care) – they had less than $100,000 and their house (which was even less than that) to their name. That “pension” my Mom had only paid $70.00 a month. That $100,000 they had was because my Dad—who remember was not “all there” mentally—cashed in their IRAs and took a severe penalty – they lost at least half of the value of their IRAs. Then, after we moved them to Assisted Living near me, we found out that my Dad was not treating my Mom well and my Mom was deteriorating more from her disease. So, we moved my Dad to a different Assisted Living facility and my Mom to a Memory Care unit (which is even more expensive) in the same place close to me. So, NOW they were having to pay for TWO units — they were having to pay around $11,000 per month!!! YEP – do the math for long term care and compare it to what they had financially – their financial resources were not on their side! My sister and I were blessed to have what we had, but neither of us could have afforded our own family situations and paid for my Mom and Dad to remain in a nice place. Now with the knowledge of my Mom and Dad’s true financial situation, that “Oh my gosh! What are we going to do when Mom and Dad run out of money?” feeling hit. So, my sister and I began the journey through an unbelievable maze and tried to get my Dad covered by VA benefits because he had served in Korea. Ultimately, we successfully navigated our way through and my Dad received his benefits, but it took two (2) years. So, he moved to a VA home in New Orleans and was very happy there, being with colleagues of war and close enough to get visits from his brother.

Meanwhile, in 2005, I had boy/girl twins and cut back to being a part–time lawyer because they required a lot of attention and my Mom and Dad required attention. I watched that awful disease my Mom had slowly steal away her memory, her dignity and eventually all of her body. My Mom died in 2012 at the age of 74. Much to my surprise, my Mom did have a funeral plan and when I walked into the room with her casket, there she laid in a slate blue casket, her favorite color, and she was finally at peace and rid of that awful disease.

The very next year, 2013, my husband, Steve, had a heart attack – one they call “the widow maker”. Yes, “IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU” became a reality for me. Thankfully, his surgery was a success, and we were blessed to be able to continue to raise our family and practice law together.

Then, two years later, in 2015, my Dad passed away unexpectedly and, in 2018, Steve passed away unexpectedly leaving me a widow, a single mom and a solo practitioner.

Although I already knew about estate planning, etc., with what I experienced with my parents and Steve’s passing, I learned the hard way about it can truly happen to YOU. So, throughout this whole process, I gradually started focusing my practice in the estate planning and probate arenas to educate people throughout the community about the importance of estate planning, how it all works and the reality of what happens when you don’t plan, and it led me back to full-time practice in this area. This necessarily includes understanding how real estate law and marital interest law play into the dynamics of an estate plan and, ultimately, how it impacts the disposition of assets at the death of someone. I have always loved real property law, so it was no surprise that my journey also led me to become a certified Texas Real Estate Commission provider teaching realtors not only about real property issues, but about marital interests and the impact of those laws upon real property as well as teaching them about probate and how what our loved ones do or don’t do regarding their assets, including real property, is set in stone the minute they pass away.

I love what I do. Every time I walk into a community–whether of married couples, seniors, realtors, grieving family–or whether I am giving a workshop or designing a plan for a client, my Mom is with me. The slate blue that I use on my cards, my website, my marketing materials, my estate planning binders, etc... reminds me of my Mom’s journey and my own journey with her, my Dad and Steve, and it reminds me of why I do what I do. I continue the dream Steve and I had of educating people as to all the vehicles that exist to help them find the estate planning option that works for them and their family. Whether I am teaching a workshop or sitting at a conference table working on an estate plan, I am not just there as a lawyer –I am a daughter, a sister, a mom and a wife that understands the importance of having a plan that provides you and your family with financial protection to the fullest extent possible and mental peace of mind.

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    6110 FM 1488 Rd., Ste. 102
    Magnolia, TX 77354

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