On New Year’s Day 1999, Top Lawyer John T. Midgett opened his own boutique estate planning firm, The Trust & Estates Law Firm, with a specialty in planning for the protection and efficient transfer of family wealth. Now known as Midgett Preti Olansen, the Virginia Beach firm has expanded with eight attorneys providing the region’s foremost legal services concentrated on family wealth transfer planning. Midgett presides as a shareholder with the firm, where his practice areas consist of estate planning, administration and taxation, estate and trust litigation and family business planning.
A graduate of the University of Virginia and T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, Midgett’s eminence in the legal profession is due in part to his expertise with his firm as well as his reputable roles with the Hampton Roads Estate Planning Council and the Duke University Estate Planning Council; as chair of the Virginia Bar Association Wills, Trusts & Estates section and service on its legislative committee; and for his prominent place among the board of directors for the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils.
“I knew since I was 13 that I was going to be a lawyer. I had an ability to persuade others to do things, such as not beat me up, beat up other people,” Midgett recollects humorously. “I figured that type of talent would be put to good use as a lawyer. Probably because there were a lot of lawyer shows on television at the time and no shows about salesmen or accountants.” Midgett acknowledges that when he joined a small firm it was then that he was appointed as a wills, trusts and estates attorney. “That was like throwing Br’er Rabbit into the briar patch,” he divulges. “It was uniquely suited to my talents.”
Midgett is proficient in his profession in an area of law that’s often considered complex. Further, many Coastal Virginians have yet to establish a living will, which spells trouble in the event of an unexpected death. When it comes to wills, insufficient planning has ramifications that are inimical to both a family’s financial and emotional wellbeing.
“There’s no doubt that there’s too many people who have failed to make adequate plans for their estates, no matter what level of wealth,” Midgett shares. “Look at Prince, who died without a will. Aretha Franklin’s estate plan was a mess. Stan Lee’s estate plan was nonexistent. James Brown had a horrible plan. Even the chief justice of the United States at one time, Earl Warren, had a hand-written will.”
Establishing wills, trusts and estates for some is a morbid topic, difficult to confront. “People are afraid of the process. Maybe they’re afraid to face mortality. Maybe they just think of this as one thing that they can do at a later time, it’s not urgent,” he explains. “Procrastination is really the enemy of good planning.”
When planning a will, trust or estate, it’s a complicated legal area that requires assessment from a judicious expert. “This is the one area where, if you make a mistake, you can’t fix it—until it’s too late,” advises Midgett. “The cost of having competent legal advice, competent tax advice, it’s invaluable. It’s not an expense, it’s an investment, and it’s one that will pay off years and years down the road in terms of peace of mind and reduced expenses. And, quite frankly, it will reduce tensions and disputes in your family.”
Outside of his law office, Midgett is engaged in speaking arrangements, spreading his insight in continuing education seminars for fellow lawyers as training in their profession and with public sessions where he attempts to simplify and bring clarity to the legal process. “If you’re an effective speaker, you’re able to communicate with the audience no matter what level of understanding they have,” he tells. “My philosophy is if you understand something well, you should be able to explain it in simple terms so other people will be able to understand.”
The Top Lawyer expresses that Midgett Preti Olansen is one of the few boutique firms that exclusively handles estate and trust planning and administration, so they’re able to pay close attention to what their clients want. “Our underlying goal really is to help people make good decisions regarding their assets, to provide for their families and other causes they love in the most cost-efficient way possible.”
Learn more here about 5 Common Mistakes in Will Writing.