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The Emotional Toll of Probate and Trust Litigation

Probate, trust, and guardianship matters rival divorce as the most emotionally draining cases in the legal system. A family member is declining or has recently passed and the client comes to you as an attorney for guidance. The introductory phone call involves tears, anger, frustration, or overwhelming grief. 

Lawyers absorb a lot of the stress and emotion that their clients feel. That’s one of the great benefits of having an experienced estate, trust, or guardianship lawyer – this professional can reduce the stress of an inevitably emotional situation. A good lawyer will remain calm and objective while guiding the client and giving him or her room to vent. A good lawyer also recognizes the emotional toll of these cases and learns to manage it. 

I’ve never met an estate or trust litigator that was completely unaffected by their cases. We hear about long-term family disputes. Sad things that happened during a client’s childhood or during the later years of a decedent’s life. Tough depositions, hearings, trials, and mediations leave lawyers ruminating on their clients and cases long after working hours. 

The emotional side is not often discussed among lawyers. We debate the procedural and substantive hurdles but not the impact on our mental health and wellbeing. We work in one of the most emotional fields of a highly stressful career but act like it has no impact on us. That has to stop. 

We have to do everything in our power to protect our personal spaces – to have strong boundaries between work and life and to take care of ourselves, mentally and physically. That means taking time off if we’re dealing with heightened stress, overwhelm, or burnout. It means mentally preparing for a tough day in court with meditation, journaling, exercise, or even a walk outside. It means taking extra good care of yourself because it’s the only way you remain calm and objective among chaos. 

I encourage lawyers that work in emotionally-heightened spaces to start being realistic about how the facts of your cases affect you. Recognize the heavy work you do and adjust your life and schedule to give yourself peace when you can. You provide a wonderful service to clients but you operate at a better level when you prioritize yourself. You, and only you, can ensure that you are taken care of. 

If you’re struggling to create the boundaries and to step away from the work, let’s talk. I am here to coach you through it.