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Before I was a Fayette County estate planning lawyer and when I was still in law school, I participated in the Legal Clinic to get some hands on experience. In September of 2001, I had my very first hearing date for an eviction case. I’d met with the client, reviewed the facts, had a copy of the deed in hand. The client had been living with her grandmother and her grandmother’s husband. The grandmother had passed away and the husband was trying to evict the granddaughter, my client. Grandmother was the only person on the deed and she died without a will. Because grandmother had no will, her estate passed by law partly to her spouse and partly to her surviving blood relatives. The husband had no right to evict the granddaughter/client because she was now a legal part owner of the home. It turned out that the husband had filed his documents incorrectly so the case was dismissed, but I realized that had grandmother done her estate plan, none of this would have happened. My client was young, scared and lost, and her grandmother could have prevented it. She said that her grandmother and the husband promised her that she could stay in the home, that nothing would change when grandmother passed away. I’m sure that it was true. People want to believe that a family member would never do “that”, whatever “that” is. But they do. They almost always do. I told the client that according to the law she was a part owner of the home, he couldn’t evict her, and tried to give her as much guidance as I could before we left, knowing that after that day her time as a Legal Clinic client was done.
The hearing date was September 11, 2001 at 8:00 in the morning. When we got on the elevator later that morning to leave the Court someone stepped in and said that they were watching the news in the Judge’s chamber and a plane just hit the World Trade Center. How strange, must have been a malfunction, hope everyone is okay. We got back to the Law School a few minutes later and the television was on. We watched a second jet hit the other Tower. Something was wrong. We watched in horror all day, glued to the screen while the world as we knew it fell apart.
The world fell apart and there was nothing I could do. Nothing. I just sat there and watched. I couldn’t help the world. I couldn’t help the grandmother with an estate plan, she was already dead. I couldn’t help with granddaughter through probate of grandmother’s estate, I was still just a law student. But I can now. That was eighteen years ago, and I have been helping since. As a Fayette County estate planning attorney, that is what I do for my clients, put right what is going wrong or prevent a wrong from happening in the first place. I think about that first client frequently and wonder how things turned out for her. That was an awful day of helplessness. But it didn’t have to be. I can’t necessarily help the world, but I can make things right for my clients and their families.
LeeAnne is an estate planning attorney that truly enjoys her work with clients. She graduated with her bachelors degree in History and English from Ohio University, and her law degree from Capital University Law School.