Kevin Huck has been an Attorney for nearly 40 years. As the co-founder of Huck and Brisske, LLC in 1999, he’s usually the one asking the questions. Here the tables are turned on the veteran attorney, answering questions as he passes the Legacy of Trust on to the next generation of attorneys at Huck & Brisske, LLC.
Why did you concentrate your practice in Estate Planning?
I was engaged in a general practice in the areas of Estate Planning, Real Estate and Corporate law. The area of Estate Planning was becoming much more complex and I sensed a need to concentrate in one area. Residential real estate transactions were very cyclical and corporate work was a smaller part of my practice.
I looked at the demographics; I am a “Baby Boomer,” so I felt that my generation was in dire need of Estate Planning, as well as our parent’s generation, and the generation to come. The need was tremendous. I felt it was the perfect time to concentrate in the Estate Planning field as well as Probate Administration.
Why did you join forces with Heinz Brisske?
My Estate Planning practice exploded in the 1980s and 1990s, and my partner at the time, who had indicated his desire to help me in this practice, reverted to handling residential real estate transactions and engaging in litigation matters. There was little synergy in our relationship and I needed help. Heinz had transitioned his practice into the field of estate planning in the 1990s, and we talked on a regular basis and attended many seminars together. I liked Heinz personally and knew he was a man of integrity with a solid work ethic. His situation was similar to mine in that his partner was a litigation attorney. Long story short, we decided to team up. I saw us as a perfect fit.
Why an Estate Planning firm?
Well, for the reasons mentioned above, it looked like an area of law that had a great need. Secondly, I believe you have to enjoy what you do; to me that’s 90% of it! I love people and I love working with people. A client is not a file to me. It’s about creating a relationship and working with and helping someone and his or her family.
Occasionally I will meet with a client who has a dysfunctional family situation and who expresses a desire to cut a family member out of their estate. I believe it is my job to discover why they feel this way and explain how such an action might create animosity among siblings. I ask them, if this is the legacy they want to leave. Typically, it’s not so much what happened, but why it happened. You have to look beyond the “what.” I urge them to either have a family meeting to clear the air or get family counseling to resolve their issues. Over the years I have turned some of these situations around and brought families back together. To me there is no greater reward.
I recall a situation in which a family with whom I was close had a child who was taking drugs and getting into other legal problems. The clients asked me to speak to their child as he had not listened to anyone else. I reminded these clients that I was not a psychologist. However, the client still wanted me to speak to their child. In doing so, I listened very closely to try to discover what the underlying problem was that resulted in this activity. Again, it’s always about the “why,” not the “what.” I explained to this child that not all of our circumstances are what we would like them to be. I stressed the need to take control over his life by acting responsibly. Nobody can do that for you but you. It’s your life, not your parents’. I explained that a change in his behavior would bring about a huge change in how his parents acted toward him, how much freedom they allowed him, and how many privileges they gave him. With this new attitude, his grades might improve.
Over the course of the years, this situation, or similar situations, repeated themselves. In some, my meetings were successful. In one case, a child, now grown, and established in a wonderful career, came back years later, and actually give me a big hug and then thanked me for not judging him and for helping him turn his life around. It doesn’t get any better than that.
You also believe a client should leave a personal letter to their family as part of their Estate Plan; why?
I often urge clients to leave a personal letter to their family and place it on top of their Estate Planning documents. What did the family mean to this client? What were the hopes and dreams this client had for his family? What were the intangibles; the values, such as love, integrity, responsibility, and loyalty that this client hoped to have instilled in his or her children through his or her example. Heinz and I believe that the most important legacy you can leave to your family has nothing to do with money or assets. It’s about values, ideals, and beliefs – the manner in which people have lived their lives – that are truly meaningful. That is what should be explained in the letter and that’s what should be passed on.
You really see yourself as a “counselor” in the original meaning of the word for “attorney,” don’t you?
My wife tells me I act like a psychologist when dealing with my clients. I tell her it’s not psychology, it’s simply common sense. If you love people, you try to help them do what is best. You have your own experiences and those of others that you can draw from.
What does Client-Centered and Relationship-Based mean to you?
It’s really about understanding our clients. We try to elicit from our clients, in as much detail as possible, the clients’ values, dreams and goals for themselves and their families. We try to understand their family dynamics. All of this takes place before we start designing or drafting documents. Only after you really understand what someone wants, what dreams they have for themselves and their families, can you create a proper Estate Plan for them.
What do you mean by “we focus on relationships, not files”?
It is our core philosophy, and it goes back to what I said earlier. It’s about creating a relationship of trust with people. It’s not about taxes and finance. I love people and I love working with people and helping their families.
What differentiates Huck & Brisske, LLC from your competitors?
Oh, I think it’s a number of things.
Primary among the things that distinguish us is what I’ve been saying throughout this interview: we care. You know the old saying, “people don’t care about what you know until they know that you care?” We really do care!
Also, we focus our practice entirely in a single area of law: Estate Planning and Administration. Elder Law, VA Pension Planning, Special Needs Planning are all practice areas that fall under that general category of Estate Planning and Administration.
Another thing that distinguishes us is our experience and our insistence that all our attorneys keep themselves current on the law. Our membership in WealthCounsel, a national organization of estate planning attorneys, and in ElderCounsel, a national organization of elder law attorneys, makes it easy for us to stay up to date at all times. Because things change so rapidly in estate planning, it’s really critical that an attorney be up-to-date on the law. The advice that we give, the plans that we design, and the documents that we draft all reflect the most current thinking.
We have well-defined processes that allow us to deliver our services on a timely basis, and that gives our clients the opportunity to keep their estate plans current through our FAMILY LEGACY PLAN™. I’m not aware of another firm in this area that offers this benefit. Because of changes in family dynamics, personal objectives, asset structure, and changes in tax and other laws, the planning done today may not fit the needs of tomorrow. Through our FAMILY LEGACY PLAN™ we ensure that a plan created by our attorneys will work when it’s needed. As a part of the FAMILY LEGACY PLAN™, we also offer our clients enrollment in our Legal Directives Program, which guarantees immediate access to our clients’ advance medical directives on a 24/7 basis. Access to estate planning documents online, a current spreadsheet of a all assets and liabilities, and other advantages make this one of the most valuable add-on benefits that we make available to clients.
And finally, we believe in a team concept: A client’s financial advisor, asset manager, insurance agent and CPA all play important roles. We view them as team members, not opponents. We interact with them; so we are all on the same page working together in the client’s best interest.
What is most important to your clients?
A study indicates that what is most important to people, in the following order, is: (1) their health, (2) their families, (3) their life experiences, (4) their social capital, and (5) their wealth. Wealth always comes in last, being the least important.
Why are you retiring?
I learned from this business that life is short and it’s fragile; you never know when your time is up. Practicing law takes a lot of hours each day. There is a lot in life I still want to do and see, and I need the time to do it. I want to spend more time with my wife, children and grandchildren, and I want to travel. My wife and I are very “outdoor” people. Although we are both in our 60’s, we still camp in tents, bike, hike, kayak and ski. We would rather be sitting in front of a campfire than sitting in a five-star hotel! We hope to be traveling all over this beautiful country as well the rest of the world.
What does a “Legacy of Trust” mean to you?
It is the relationships that I have built with my clients over the years. My clients come back to me time and time again because they trust me; not only professionally, but also personally. It really is that personal connection that I have developed with my clients – they really get a sense that I care about them. And I do care about them!
What is your secret for being so successful and so trusted in the community?
Caring! It’s an attitude that pervades everything I do. It’s not a single act that creates a reputation, but a lifelong attitude that builds upon itself.
One of the firm’s goals is to build a lifetime relationship with clients, their families and beyond. Can you explain?
When we create estate plans for our clients, we want the adult children of our clients to come in and meet with us to see what mom and dad have done, understand the importance of what mom and dad are doing, and what it means to them, and for them to understand what their role will be. We call that a Family Legacy Meeting.
We also instill in our clients’ adult children that they need to plan for their own futures. This is a legacy that goes on and on. It just doesn’t stop with mom and dad.
Most of your clients are referrals. Why?
Again, it’s that trust factor. 80% of our clients, if not more, are referred to us by our existing clients. I take great pride in that because nobody would be referring others to us if they didn’t trust us, or if they thought we weren’t competent.
What will you miss the most?
I will miss my day-to-day interaction with the wonderful people at my firm, and I’ll miss interacting with my clients.
Where do you see the future of the firm heading?
I think it has a great future! We have built up a very loyal clientele over the years. I believe the firm will continue to grow and thrive, in whatever direction my partner decides to take it. Heinz has the same attitude and focus on clients as I do, and I know that he will take the firm in the direction it needs to go to continue to meet our clients’ needs.
Our focus will continue to be on servicing the needs of our clients and helping them, and the people they introduce to us, with their planning needs. Especially as clients age, they will need our help to navigate the increasingly complex legal and financial issues facing them.
What advice do you have for Heinz and the attorneys, present and future?
Keep caring. Let your clients know that you care! And continue to do what’s right for them, no matter where that leads you.
What parting words would you like to say to your clients?
I truly appreciate that you have let me into your lives to help you and your families with your estate planning. It was never just about the documents I prepared for you. It has really been a joy and a pleasure to have served you. I have learned as much from as you have learned from me. Through your patronage and the people you have introduced to me over the years, you have enriched my life and made my years in this practice truly satisfying. I will truly miss you!