- Name: Kimberly M. Hanlon
- Employer: Kimberly M. Hanlon, LLC
- Position: Attorney at Law
- Location: Minneapolis, MN
- Education: J.D. from the University of Tulsa College of Law
How long have you been practicing?
I was admitted as an attorney in Oklahoma in September 2008 and in Minnesota in January 2011. However, I had a limited license to practice law in Oklahoma from February 2007 until I was sworn in as an attorney.
What led you to practice in the area of estate planning?
When I started law school, I thought I wanted to do adoption cases, so I interned with the probate court (which also handles adoptions in Tulsa County) after my first year of law school. I found that I was more interested in the probate and guardianship cases on the docket than the adoption cases, so I went to work for an attorney practicing estate planning, probate, and guardianship as soon as I had my legal intern’s license.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about estate planning?
That you have to be wealthy for estate planning to make a difference for you. It is just not true. You do not have to be wealthy to have a plan in place should you become incapacitated, or to have guardians nominated for your children, or to have a simple trust that will prevent your estate from going through probate. The benefits of an estate plan well outweigh the costs, but some people don’t seem to realize that you do not have to have much to still reap the benefits.
What is your favorite aspect of helping individuals create their estate plan?
Building relationships. I am naturally a people-person so estate planning really works for my personality. I love it that I really get to know my clients – who they are, what they have gone through in life, and how they see the world – then create a plan based on what is important to them and their lives. I love the sharing aspect of what I do.
When do you recommend that an individual start thinking about his or her estate plan?
If you take a moment to ask yourself, “If I were not here tomorrow, is there anything that would need to be handled?” and the answer is yes, then you should start thinking about your estate plan.
What is a best piece of advice that you share with clients as they think about their estate plan?
To plan for what they want and know is best, and not what they think other people may think they should do. I tell clients, especially those with adult children, that they are not obligated to share their estate plan with anyone in advance. In fact, sometimes it is best not to. I have had a client go and share the estate plan with family members, only to have those family members react badly to it, then feel pressured to change the plan to keep the peace. I think an estate plan is intensely personal and no one should be expected to disclose any aspect of it. People get to choose what they want their plan to be and I want my clients to be empowered to choose for themselves.
Any interesting anecdotes?
Ionce had a client who was terminally ill and heading downhill fast. I prepared his estate plan with a revocable trust, and the trust stated that the instructions for the distribution of his personal property would be given in a letter to the trustee and attached to the trust, or otherwise all to his wife if there were no letter. He had three adult children who all knew that their father was working on that letter, and he did his best to work on it without letting them know the contents of it. One son broke into my client’s safe to get the letter, then had qualms about who was getting what and told his siblings all about it, and they in turn had their own reactions, which they shared in turn with their mother. She got upset that the Rolex watch was not going to her, and so on and so forth. So, the letter became the focal point of an intra-family espionage ring. Each person tried to intimate their wishes to my client to see if he would change the letter, then they would break into the safe to see if they were effective in their efforts. This went on for weeks and weeks. Of course, he knew what was going on, was infinitely amused by it, and in the end did what he wanted to do. In my opinion, he did a good job being fair and honoring everyone as best he could.