Hanging my Shingle
My new adventure has begun! Along with thanking the wonderful people who helped me on this journey of setting up my new law practice (notably my family, Debbie, Frank, and Max), I will take this opportunity to tell you about one of my favorite people ever.
Oh, how I wish my G'pa were here to see this. Evert Joling was an incredible man. His sense of humor was impeccable, he carried himself with a gentle confidence, he loved God with his whole heart, he was brilliant despite only being formally educated through 8th grade, and he was sick of Brett Favre long before #4 was traded to the Jets. We can only be thankful he passed away several years before Favre went to the Vikings.
I vividly remember crying when I found out G'pa's cancer prognosis gave him six months to live; I was so sad and angry that he would probably die before I ever had the chance to have a baby. I felt a similar frustration again when I was elected town chair of the Town of Oak Grove board -- I wanted him to witness these milestones! For years I had listened to his stories as a town supervisor, watched him pour over Wisconsin Towns Association magazines, and eventually took him to town meetings when he was too weak to drive. He would have been so pleased to see me following in his footsteps. (He might have also been that one constituent who sent a note offering me "encouragement" in my new position because of the challenges I would face considering my age, gender, choice of profession, and length in residence. Thanks ... I think.)
My reason for wanting G'pa to be alive as I open my law practice, though, is quite different than the desire for him to have met my husband and children or to see me graduate from law school or to congratulate me on winning an election against a long-time incumbent. I wish he was still here so I could have helped him lay out his estate plan.
Whenever I talk about my transition from being a stay-at-home mom to actively practicing law, I point out that I am surrounded by parents of young children who have no provisions in place if they were to unexpectedly pass away — this is a natural motivation for choosing wills and trusts as the focus of my lawyering.
What I don't talk about very often is the day my grandpa asked me to get a paper and pen out so he could dictate a document that he intended to be a will, or at least a legally binding transfer of property. I was a 25-year-old graduate student finishing a degree in music performance; I had no clue what he was even trying to accomplish. The gist of it was that he had a computer upstairs with internet access, and his googling (or whatever we called it in 2005) led him to believe that he could create a seamless succession plan for his farm assets. This, of course, made my grandma irritated because she didn't understand it either, and nothing ended up getting done. The part that will forever echo in my head is him saying, "Can't a dying man get his wish?" Apparently not, Pa. I'm so sorry.
Personally, I think every American should be able to calculate his own taxes and draft her own will, but that isn't the reality of the world we live in today. Often times it takes an accountant or a lawyer to guide us through these essential tasks. My goal is to make the process approachable — I speak in a manner that is straightforward, I use words that are easy to understand, my fees are reasonable, and when you come into my office, I will provide the information but let you decide what is best for your situation.