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Posted by Positive Aging Community on 03/19/2020

The Power of Planning

The Power of Planning

Jody and Charles Kloch loved to travel. They have been to 80 and 122 countries, respectively—many of them together. 

The adventurous couple was always looking forward to their next journey. But when an unexpected illness changed everything, the Klochs turned to Stouffer Legal, a firm in Towson, Md., that focuses its practice on estate planning and elder law. They went from planning their next trip to planning for the future—and quickly discovered the power of planning ahead. 

A Good Plan

Stouffer Legal is an estate planning firm that focuses on helping Maryland families plan ahead before a crisis occurs. The firm is built on the belief that a sound estate plan can protect and preserve assets, minimize tax exposure, and enhance inheritance. They provide assistance with wills, trusts, medical directives and powers of attorney. 

An “education-first” firm, Stouffer Legal believes in the importance of educating clients. They offer free weekly seminars on estate planning. They also provide up-front pricing, fixed fees and no-cost consultations. Ultimately, the firm ensures that their clients are well informed, well protected and well represented. 

Stouffer Legal is also deeply committed to building client relationships—and that doesn’t just apply to the attorneys. “We work as a team, and I think that’s the number one reason that we work so well,” said Owner and Managing Partner Britt Stouffer. “This is a process, and we are really here to work together to guide clients through the entire process.”

Not in the Plan

“You know how sometimes a door just opens? It was like that,” Jody recalled of meeting her husband, Charles. 

A native of Los Angeles, Jody was an only child. After college, she became a teacher and was working at a junior high school in one of Ontario’s roughest neighborhoods. While she found her work rewarding, it was undeniably challenging. After her parents passed away in her early 30s, Jody decided it was time to focus on her love for travel. She packed her bags and left for China.

It was there—half way around the world—that she met Baltimore native Charles and fell in love. “He was in China traveling too, and it really was providence,” Jody recalled. “I had been divorced for years, and I was never planning to get married again. He was in the process of getting a divorce at the time.”

While love wasn’t in either of their travel plans, it was certainly serendipitous. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Jody said. “We traveled the world together. We had so many wonderful experiences. ”

Of their many travel destinations, their perennial favorite was Germany, Jody recalled. “Both of us have German heritage, and we always loved it there,” she said. “Charles was fluent in German as well, so that was a lot of fun to travel with someone who could read and communicate easily. He was actually fluent in five languages.”

Time for a Plan

When Charles suffered a stroke in November 2017, Jody quickly realized how little the couple had done to plan for their future. “We both had a will, but we hadn’t done much else,” she said. “I knew I had to do something quickly!”

When Jody learned about Law Day, which is a program where seniors can meet with attorneys hosted at the local senior center, she jumped at the chance to educate herself. It was at this event that she met Alex Housley, an Associate Attorney with Stouffer Legal. 

Jody later attended Stouffer Legal’s free workshop on estate planning and elder law. “It was a great introduction, and it really opened my eyes,” Jody recalled. “I don’t know anything about law, but the attorney who spoke had great analogies that made it really easy to understand everything.”

Jody decided that it was time to devise a comprehensive estate plan. She now feels fortunate that she started planning early enough that her husband was able to make some decisions with her. 

When the Klochs sat down with Alex to create their estate plan, he carefully explained all the steps and all the necessary documents. An estate plan often consists of a will and/or trusts, medical directives, and a power of attorney. The Klochs also needed to address some specific concerns with the impending need for long-term care, as well as the use of government benefits. 

“Alex was extremely patient,” Jody said. “Every time I told him I didn’t understand something, he reassured me and explained it again.”

Since the couple completed their estate plan, Charles has suffered three additional strokes that led to partial paralysis and increasing dementia. Jody cared for him at home for more than two years. However, as his care needs increased, it became clear that he would be safer and more comfortable in a long-term care setting. He now lives full time at a nearby nursing and rehabilitation center. Jody is able to visit him every day. 

Benefits of a Plan 

While dealing with her husband’s worsening medical conditions has been difficult, it was made easier because of the advance planning the Klochs completed. Since Jody had a clear estate plan in place, she was able to seamlessly transition her husband to long-term care when it became necessary. Alex noted, “When it became time to do so, we were able to quickly enact the plan we had developed together.”

“Stouffer Legal’s team helped me with everything,” Jody recalled. “The entire firm gives a good name to lawyers. They are patient and kind, and they talk to you. They never talk over you.” 

In addition to her work with Alex, Jody also benefited from the hands-on help of Sara, one of the firm’s paralegals. Jody explained: “Sara called me all the time and kept me up to date on everything. She even went with me to the bank, since I still don’t know how to do online banking. She was incredible.”

Now that Jody has executed her plan, she is relieved that all the decisions are made, so she can focus on enjoying the time she has with her husband. While it isn’t always easy, Jody continues to treasure the priceless memories that she made with Charles all over the globe. 

“I am so grateful. We really had a great life together,” Jody concluded. She has no regrets, lots of memories and a solid plan for the future. That’s a pretty great place to be.

The Owner and Managing Partner of Stouffer Legal, Britt Stouffer, is responsible for the content of this article.  

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