The following is an interview with Karen Baim Reagler presented in a question-and-answer format. Baim Reagler is an estate planning attorney practicing in Hot Springs and Hot Springs Village.
What inspired you to become an attorney?
Karen Baim Reagler: I'm a third-generation lawyer, so, there you go. We used to have discussions around the dinner table. Always wanted to be a lawyer.
So who in your family before you (were lawyers)?
KBR: My grandfather, and my father is still a lawyer.
How long have you been practicing law?
KBR: I graduated from law school in '97, passed the Bar (exam) in '97 and I've been practicing since. So, it's been 24 years.
What are some of your areas of emphasis in practicing law?
KBR: I only focus in estate planning. Wills and trusts, guardianships. I do some adoptions, but really business planning, succession -- everything that has to do with passing stuff from one generation to the next. Whether it's businesses from one generation to the next, setting up the business. And that goes into contracts and real estate -- so, I guess it's broader, but passing assets.
Why are these areas important to you?
KBR: I love the riddle of them. The puzzle of them because you have to plan it from this mystery to that mystery to that mystery. What you do now affects many pieces down the road and so you have to think, not just for today, but for many pages, many ages into the future. So, you're thinking about today, but you're also thinking about tomorrow and the impacts of tomorrow and the people of tomorrow. So I always like the puzzles.
What do you enjoy about serving the Hot Springs community?
KBR: The people of Hot Springs are so bright and so well-educated. So many of them have high expectations that it's a pleasure to meet them and provide for those needs and those goals.
Any advice for anyone who hasn't taken care of (estate planning)?
KBR: It's time. It's past time. Those people who keep putting it off -- it's not as scary as you might think. I work with some wonderful people and none of us are as scary as you might think. Part of the reason I do what I do is because I'm not as scary as you might think. I'm actually kind of a small person which is not as intimidating as you might think. It's incredibly important. It has to be done. And if you wait until it needs to be done, it's too late. And there's lots of very inexpensive ways to do it. We have lots of people who come in and decide to do it on their own, and that's completely fine. They can also look on the internet and do some basic education themselves. There are lots of free resources that are fine. ... It's more important that people get it done than coming to see me. There are a couple of really good websites to include that have free resources that they can do a little research and can do an Arkansas Financial Power of Attorney that is legit. They just have to -- the only real advice -- do the research, follow the instructions to the T. Dot every I, cross every T. But they can totally do it. It's done all the time, but it's very important that it be done.
On that same line -- what are some of the concerns or fears that you address with people? Are there some common concerns or fears that people have around estate planning?
KBR: Absolutely. With estate planning, first off you have planning for other people. If you are dealing with parents, you need to have legal authority to help them. So, if you don't have the legal authority, you have no right to ask any questions, have any access to their account, make any decisions for them -- do anything. You have no rights so you can't do anything. So you're helpless.
If you are the parent and you don't share that authority, then the only way they're going to be able to help you is to have you declared incompetent, which is terrifying. So it's better to share the authority, teach people the way you want stuff done and learn that you can trust people and the people you can trust. And then for the people who are dealing with themselves -- well, that's basically it. It's finding the people to trust, selecting the people to trust and teaching the people you do trust so that you don't leave it to someone else to make those selections like a court who has to make those selections without having the knowledge.
Or -- and this is the very scariest -- is when decisions are made without having all the knowledge or when you are not in your best situation to make those decisions. For example, when someone is receiving care they are often very reliant upon a caregiver. And that caregiver is the greatest person ever because it is the most wonderful thing to receive care. People don't like being reliant, don't like having to receive care. And so they are very grateful to a caregiver. And that's when a caregiver can become greedy and overreaching. And so, it's often better and decisions are often better made before a person is receiving care. So it makes more sense if we divide responsibilities. If somebody provides care, somebody else controls money -- and it's better if decisions are made before we're having to rely on somebody, before emotions are involved. When you're receiving care, there's gratitude involved. There's emotion involved. And emotion doesn't always make such good logical decisions.
When you're not practicing law, what do you like to do? (hobbies, interests, etc.)
KBR: Well, believe it or not, I've got four children, a husband, three dogs, 12 chickens, nine fish. ... I love 3D puzzles, I've started sewing and that's all I can possibly keep my hands on and, perhaps, more than I can. I also love to bake.
Anything else you would like to add?
KBR: Estate planning is often on people's bucket lists. It's not as scary as people think it is. It is a wonderful thing to get checked off. I do recommend people take care of it. It starts with making an appointment. Make an appointment -- they'll be thrilled that they did. All they have to do is start with a phone call.
Below are online resources Baim Reagler recommends when getting started estate planning.
For more information about wills, I would recommend reading information at https://www.arlegalservices.org/node/285.
For more information about powers of attorney and living wills, I would recommend reading information at https://www.arlegalservices.org/node/285.
Another great document is available at https://fivewishes.org/five-wishes/individuals-families/individuals-and-families.
For questions about estate planning, contact Karen Baim Reagler, or Ashley or Wade Naramore, at Baim Reagler & Naramore PLLC, 501-609-9800.