A Personal Letter From The Owner - My Story
My father died of a sudden heart attack in the middle of the night, in my mother's arms, in a hotel room in Canada while celebrating their anniversary. His doctors coined the cause of death– the widow maker. A heart attack that comes on without warning. Without regard to the life it is taking – it simply leaves widows behind. I was 21, a psychology student at Michigan State University. Navigating life after the death of a loved one is tricky – death changes everything. At the core, my interest in probate and estate planning stems from my personal experience with this change; the good, the bad, and the purpose behind it all. I am a strong believer that there is power in purpose. Purpose in what happens to you, how you act and what you leave behind.
After I graduated MSU, my path took me to the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. I put myself through law school by working full time as a legal clerk for the Oakland County Probate Court Chief Judge. During the day, I attended to probate, family, juvenile and mental health matters. At night, I went to school and studied. This opportunity allowed me to work with, and learn from, intelligent and wonderful people – experiencing what happens in front of and behind the bench. At the center of this experience was witnessing decisions, rationale, and thought process of a human approach to the legal system. I worked for a Judge who was a man of few words and choose those that came out of his mouth wisely. After I passed the bar and was leaving his courtroom for private practice, he brought me into his chambers. I sat down in a large leather chair, silent, waiting for him to speak first. After collecting his thoughts, he looked at me and said “Kristin, never forget to look people in the eyes. It reminds you that they are human – doing the best they can with what they have, even if their choices and behavior are not ideal. You must remember this and always be fair, firm and consistent in your actions.” These words were, and continue to be, a guiding principal for my life and my practice.
As a young attorney working at a law firm, I united purpose and the Judge's guiding principal into my probate practice. I made it my mission to facilitate open communication to allow resolution that did not include the complete destruction of the family unit and depletion of resources. Guiding Principal II was discovered: Open communication provides perspective, which leads to resolution.
After years of private practice, I decided to change gears. Instead of drafting estate planning documents, I was honored to become a part of a local trust company to administer estate planning documents. I was part of a wonderful team of leaders that came together to transform estate and trust administration. I got to see how estate planning documents were implemented in real life situations. I learned a lot and was able to work with wonderful colleagues and families. During my tenure, I wore many hats: Staff Manager, Marketing Specialist, Trust Administrator, Practice Developer and Practice Leader. As there was no practice group lead, I took the initiative to established and became the first Estate Settlement and Special Needs Practice Group Leader - developing models to manage and grow the group. I led and staffed tax, trust and financial planning teams to collaborate and provide a holistic service model of support to clients.
Guiding Principal III was discovered: Teamwork makes the dream work.
Now, back in private practice, we, as a team, have implemented all three Guiding Principals to help our clients through life and legal transitions. While I have not mentioned this before, one of my greatest accomplishments is being a mother and wife. I have three children: Jacob (13), Hannah (11) and Ethan (9). The five of us are a team, imperfect at times, but team nonetheless. The guiding principles I use in my professional career are also ones my family implements at home.
I truly appreciate the opportunity to share my story.