What do we do?
James B. Griffin, LLC helps clients prepare for the most difficult times through estate planning, probate, and property law. Our purpose is to provide “preventive medicine” through well-considered trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and other forms of asset protection and preservation. We also probate wills, administer estates and trusts, and advise clients about their property and businesses. “Preventive medicine” is not easy to practice, but trouble is less likely to happen if I ask you difficult questions and tell you about potentially bitter conflicts you should avoid. My job is to watch the horizon for you and help you plan accordingly.
What do we bring you?
Our clients like candor backed by experience, and we will tell you:
- We believe that everyone who has anything worth fighting over should have a will.
- We believe that a durable financial power of attorney is a vital tool for anyone who is hospitalized long enough for bills to become due.
- We believe that a healthcare proxy (sometimes mistakenly called “a living will”) should state your core beliefs about life and death and appoint someone you trust to speak for you to doctors and medical staff. If you suddenly become unconscious, you do not want your family tied up with doubt and argument, nor do you want to give the medical staff a rigid set of protocols.
- We believe that trusts are often the best vehicles to transfer land, investments, family businesses, and other forms of wealth to widows, orphans, heirs, friends, those with special needs, and charities.
- We recognize that gifts and skills in any family are unevenly distributed and that some heirs will need protection from exploitation because of their disabilities, bad habits, and grabby in-laws.
- We believe that the person in the family with the best track record of financial responsibility, regardless of seniority, should likely be appointed to a fiduciary position such as trustee, executor, or conservator.
- We will never counsel you to break the law, but we will do whatever we can to help you lawfully avoid paying taxes through careful planning.
- The most difficult decision you will likely contemplate is the nomination of someone to be guardian for your minor children should anything terrible happen to you.
- Litigation is a form of warfare, and you want to avoid litigation through careful estate and business planning. Litigation is almost always far more expensive than the estate planning that could have prevented it.
What do we ask of you?
We will ask you to answer candidly lots of questions about your family and wealth. If you are not comfortable with us, we will gladly refer you to another law firm.
What do we deliver?
We deliver our legal advice and services by any method that serves the client’s best interests: We have office in Atlanta (Buckhead) but can arrange conference rooms near almost any Georgian if necessary. We make house calls and hospital calls. (One of the first wills I ever did was for a friend who was dying at a hospice next to Turner Field.) On the other extreme, we have created estate plans and remotely arranged their proper execution using modern digital wonders. Whatever we do, it is personal to and for you!
What do we guarantee?
Before you complete an estate plan, you will want to know how everything works. Under the rules of the state bar, we cannot guarantee a legal result. However, we can guarantee that we will answer your questions and patiently explain the details of your legal matter as long as you wish! We also hold ourselves to deadlines to give you assurance that you project will be completed in a timely fashion.
What drives us?
This is a question that has a short answer and a long answer. First, the short answer:
Before I went to law school, I was a teacher and writer of history. To this day, I’d rather discuss a great book or event than do just about anything else. It is particularly satisfying to explain something difficult and see someone’s facial expression change as he or she understands it. I hesitated to become a lawyer because the profession has managed to wear out a large percentage of the public. Lawyer jokes aren’t always funny, but sad. I didn’t want to be “one of them” though I did want to serve.
When I began to practice law, I found the work largely unsatisfying except when good people resolved complex problems for good causes. The intellectual stimulation, though considerable, needed to be paired with an intense interest in the client’s particular challenge. Though wills and trusts were not my primary fields in the beginning, I have found great energy whenever I was asked to help people plan for the good of their heirs.
One of my first estate-planning clients was one of the most desperate. She was dying at the Dominican Sisters’ hospice in Atlanta, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and needed to take care of her son, who was not capable of taking care of himself. I quickly drafted a will, financial power of attorney, and healthcare proxy. The will provided for a trust to hold her property for her son’s benefit. The trustee would be her close friend from their days in the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band. I arranged a time for signing and asked her friends to assemble witnesses. We executed the documents at the hospice, and she died in peace two days later.
Years later, as my own mother declined in health, she asked me to take over as guardian for my disabled brother; I cannot forget the relief in her eyes when I accepted. When she died, I took charge of her affairs, not because I really wanted to, but because it was the right thing to do and I did not want to let down her children and grandchildren.
A couple of years ago, my father gave up driving a car (at 88 years of age!) and moved in with us, so I can honestly say that I share in some of the struggles my clients face.
Since I set up my own law firm, I have focused on estate and probate law. There is no challenge as complex as planning one’s own death or disability to prevent trouble among your heirs! A related challenge is to administer an estate to honor the deceased’s wishes and to keep peace within a family. A related field I know well is real estate.
I like the fact that many of my clients are self-selected: they could have procrastinated these difficult decisions, but they chose to take them on now. They often have refreshing candor about life, love, and responsibility.
For these reasons, I am driven to do what I do and feel obligated to show respect to my clients for their courage. Moreover, I feel obligated to be a person of good cheer and conscience. My clients’ urgent needs are usually far more demanding than mine. I owe it to them to listen, to respond, to act on their behalf, and to pray for them and their families.