By Kamala Kirk
No matter one’s age or financial background, estate planning is important. It organizes assets and how they will be distributed, medical directives, beneficiary designations, as well as trusts to facilitate passing property to heirs. Proper estate planning saves time and money, avoids big taxes, and also protects one’s children and dependents.
“From my experience, I find that older clients are experienced and insightful, but many estate planning attorneys approach their practice from a place of preaching rather than listening,” said Rachel Stoddard, Esq., owner of Stoddard Legal Solutions PLLC. “The first question I ask any client, of any age, is, ‘How can I help?’ I listen to their concerns and work with them to structure a plan that meets their goals and concerns.”
Nominated for Best Law Firm of Ahwatukee in 2019 and 2020, Stoddard Legal Solutions specializes in estate planning, helping clients manage their estates and administration to make sure that their estate planning goals are carried out. In addition to helping clients protect their assets, Stoddard helps them create medical and mental health Powers of Attorney and plan for their children and dependents’ futures.
Stoddard also creates Special Needs Trusts, which give clients the ability to ensure their loved ones will always be guided toward success and provided for financially through their lifetime, and specialty Firearms Trusts to effectively bequeath one’s firearms to someone due to the numerous state and federal regulations that apply to the ownership and possession of firearms.
“I’d like to think that I help clients feel comfortable in discussing complex legal issues,” Stoddard says. “Everyone has valuable input and insight, and I respect their perspectives. I may be a lawyer with specialized legal training, but I am not an expert in their lives, families and personal choices. It takes equal listening and respect to form a valuable estate plan.”
Prior to establishing her practice in 2016, Stoddard had a successful career in government service helping victims of violent crime for more than a decade.
“When I had my daughter, I wanted to adjust my practice so it wasn’t so litigation based so I could be more present for her, but I still wanted to help people and provide comfort for them through difficult times,” Stoddard says. “Estate planning was a natural extension of that. I get to help clients feel empowered in making their own choices regarding their estate, and even end of life choices, which ultimately provides them with a very needed peace of mind.”
Stoddard graduated summa cum laude from ASU, then became cum laude graduate at the university’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
While attending law school, Stoddard also headed the Advocacy Program Against Domestic Violence, worked for civil law firms and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, and clerked for judges at the trial and appellate courts.
“My undergrad is in psychology, and I graduated with my bachelor’s degree at 17,” Stoddard says. “Being so young while in a higher education environment, or not the obvious cookie cutter mold, I believe has led me to have a very real compassion and open-mindedness for folks of all circumstances and walks of life.”
After graduating, Stoddard became a deputy county attorney with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, where she quickly moved up and was entrusted with highly complex and sensitive cases involving crimes against children. She was also selected to be an assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S. attorney’s office in the district of Arizona, where she handled several federal trials and appeals as a federal prosecutor, successfully arguing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Stoddard was also named the Project Safe Childhood Coordinator and led prosecutions of violent and technology-based crimes that involved children, as well as liaising with local, tribal, state and federal authorities.
Stoddard has extended her legal services to private clientele since forming Stoddard Legal Solutions, and during COVID-19, she utilized technology to continue to provide services to her clients.
“My husband is an IT engineer, so I was very fortunate to be able to adjust on a weekend and offer secure video conference options for clients who weren’t comfortable meeting in person or just preferred to meet with me from the comfort of their home,” Stoddard says.
“It allowed me to still offer high-quality, professional services while taking care of my clients’ needs and concerns, more than just legal. I still utilize such technology and offerings for those clients who prefer such methods and will continue to do so into the future to serve the widest array of clients.”
Stoddard shared that her favorite part of working in the industry is helping people feel empowered and confident about topics that are often difficult to think about. As a mother to two children, Stoddard is committed to her family as well as the families of her clients.
“My two children and my husband are the most important part of my life and I would do anything to protect and provide for them,” Stoddard says. “Which is why it is so important to me to assist my clients in doing the same for those they love, whether it be family or their ‘chosen’ family and friends.”
Stoddard Legal Solutions
5010 W. Warner Road,
Suite 109, Phoenix