Remember Joan Rivers? “Can we talk?” Can we?

Why Do You Do It?

Why do people try to handle legal matters on their own, without a lawyer? You know what’s going to happen. They are going to wind up in some lawyer’s office later with a problem; a big problem; a problem that could have been avoided had they sought the advice of a lawyer, before they acted. Now they will have to ante up a large sum of money to save them from serious financial, or other injury. Guess who they will blame for their predicament? Lawyers. I don’t get it.

You Just Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Robert J. Shanahan, Jr.

I tried something similar when I was a young man, starting out. I needed to do an uncomplicated plumbing job. Of course, I screwed it up, but was lucky to have a friend who was a plumber. He saved the day, but I will always remember his parting words: “I don’t do law; YOU don’t do plumbing!” Very sage advice. You just don’t know what you don’t know.

Sometimes You Pay Me Lots of Money…

So why does a married couple spend hours with me, and lots of money, to develop an estate plan which will avoid death taxes and leave more money to their kids? Then, years later, when one of them has died, the other doesn’t even come to me for a minute of advice. Instead, she runs to the Surrogate’s Office to probate the will, listens to a bank teller on what she should do, and relies upon her non-lawyer children for advice and help. The warning page I placed on the front of the will is disregarded. This is the warning that said that this is not your average will. See an attorney before you do anything. Otherwise the estate plan may be destroyed. Now your kids will pay tens of thousands of dollars in death taxes. I don’t get it. And it is very frustrating to me.

Sometimes You Pay Me Even More Money Than You Needed…

Why start a business with a partner, modify a partnership agreement from the internet, and give your partner a lien on your house? All without talking to a lawyer. Did you not think that your partnership agreement is a serious, binding legal document? How about giving someone a lien on your home? Or did you not think that anything could go wrong. After all, you found the document on the internet!—what could go wrong! Of course, when your partner turns out to be untrustworthy, and you want to end the business, you see a lawyer to get you out of the mess. But now you have signed a binding legal documents and have a lien filed against your house. A lawsuit is necessary which will cost thousands of dollars, and hours away from your business. An hour consultation would have revealed easier and less threatening ways to set up your partnership. Again, I don’t get it.

We Want to Practice “Preventative Law”

We lawyers like what we do. We like to “counsel” clients, to give them the advice they need to accomplish their goals and avoid risk. When we can do that, we feel a sense of pride. This is the true Counselor At Law. We can make more money fixing problems and correcting errors, but this is more costly to our clients and less satisfying for us. We want to see you before there is a problem. We want to see you before you go off being your own lawyer. You’ve heard what they said about a man who acts as his own lawyer? So stop. Come in. I’ll give you a cup of coffee. Let’s talk.


Robert J. Shanahan, Jr. Esq. focuses his practice in estate planning, elder law and probate matters. Mr. Shanahan additionally practices in business law and non-profit matters. He is a trained, experienced mediator and offers dispute resolution services, particularly for those arising from probate and elder law matters. Additionally, Mr. Shanahan’s firm, Shanahan & Voigt, LLC, offers a breadth of additional services to families and businesses throughout central New Jersey.

Mr. Shanahan received his Juris Doctor from the Temple University School of Law in 1985, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year.  He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1981 from William Paterson University, with honors. Robert is a member and Past President of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, and is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and its Elder Law and Disability Section.  He is also active in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Robert is a member of the Hunterdon Medical Center’s Bio Ethics Committee and was awarded a Five Star Financial Services Professional Award for 2016.

You may contact Bob at (908) 751-1551, or robert@legalcounselnj.com.


THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS MERELY AN EDUCATIONAL SERVICE TO PROVIDE BASIC, GENERAL INFORMATION AND IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE OF ANY SORT. FURTHER, BY EXPLORING THIS INFORMATION, YOU UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS BEING FORMED.

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