Our Head of Partnerships Gabe Caldwell recently interviewed Gayanne Schmid, Owner of Schmid Jacobs Law, as part of our ongoing Expert Interview Series. Their conversation covered a wide range of topics, including growing the Estate Planning practice at Schmid Jacobs Law, trends and tips for families looking to plan for end of life, and partnering with Addio. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Gabe: Can you start by telling us about Schmid Jacobs Law?
Gayanne: Schmid Jacobs Law is a full service family law office based in Holladay, UT, just outside of Salt Lake City, which has been in practice for the past 14 years.
Gabe: What services do you provide for your clients?
Gayanne: We help families with estate planning, guardianship and conservatorship, divorce, custody, parentage, domestic violence, step-parent adoptions & other family related matters.
Gabe: How do you help families that are looking to plan for end-of-life?
Gayanne: We help families put together their estate plan on the front side and then when someone passes away we help their families navigate probate, and administer and distribute the estate, including help with estate auctions. When it comes to estate planning, we meet with families to understand their full situation and family dynamics to make sure we put together a plan that helps them to achieve their goals and protect their loved ones.
Once we understand the client’s goals, we build the appropriate estate plan which typically includes a last will and testament, durable financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney, living will and a trust if it is necessary.
If a family is blended or has minors and wants to control when minors receive distributions and for what purpose, if there is a business, or real estate in multiple states, we will encourage families to create a trust. Trusts also ensure that family members will be cared for in cases of incapacity. We have the ability to create revocable living trusts, irrevocable living trusts, family trusts, trusts for valued pets and more as needed.
Gabe: This is great. You are really taking the time to understand the family & set them up with a plan that meets all of their goals.
Can you tell us a little more about your services around post death for families? Maybe starting with what is probate and how you help families navigate it?
Gayanne: Probate is the legal process of reviewing the assets and liabilities of a deceased person and determining beneficiaries Probate is state specific and can be time consuming, confusing, and stressful for families to navigate.
We help families navigate probate by preparing the appropriate documents, filing them with the court, seeking out and notifying beneficiaries, and carrying out court required processes such as notifying creditors in local newspapers.
We also are a third party who can help mediate tough family dynamics to make sure the wishes of the deceased are properly carried out and emotional family squabbles are kept to a minimum.
Gabe: I’m curious about your career story. Can you walk us through it as far back as you’d like to start?
Gayanne: Sure. I grew up in Syracuse, New York and ended up going to law school at the University of Michigan. After law school, I started out working in employment law at a large firm in San Francisco.
After a couple of years, I wanted to have more control on cases I worked on and moved to Salt Lake City to open up my own firm to be closer to the mountains.
Gabe: When did you start focusing on family law?
Gayanne: After I started my firm in Utah, I was approached by a man at a party who was not allowed to even see his children after his wife falsely accused him of sexual abuse. He asked me if I could help him. I said if he paid me a thousand dollars on the spot, I’d take his case and if I couldn’t get him parent-time in three weeks, I’d return his money.
I researched family law and his case. Shortly thereafter I was able to arrange regular parent-time for him and changed his life. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.
Serendipitously, he was the head of a father’s rights group and he asked me if I would be a presenter at their next meeting, which I did. Almost overnight, I had 16 new clients. I was able to help them all with custody, parent-time and setting up their family estate plans.
Gabe: As you have built your estate planning practice, who would you consider to be your ideal type of family that you work with?
Gayanne: We are licensed in Utah; therefore, we focus on serving families who live in Utah. With that said, we work with families of all types. But, the individuals and families that we really seek out are the ones who may have had changes in their lives, through divorce, marriage, remarriage, birth of a child, acquisition of properties, and serious illnesses in the family.
Gabe: Oh wow. Lots of families in Utah could benefit from working with you. What are the biggest downsides for a family not having an estate plan?
Gayanne: So many. But, the top three headaches I see for so many families who have not put together an estate plan are: One, without a will the state decides who receives their loved one’s assets after death and it may not be what their loved one would have wanted. Two, without a trust, the family will have to have a guardian appointed for their incapacitated loved one who may not have expressed their wishes regarding healthcare and end of life. Three, the continuing worry, concern and uncertainty about what will happen when a loved one dies and whether their wishes will be carried out.
Gabe: That’s a good transition to talk about how we started working together. Why did you decide to partner with Addio?
Gayanne: Not all families are comfortable working with an attorney; therefore, they delay putting together an end-of-life plan until it’s too late. Also, many families cannot afford to pay the substantial costs of an estate plan prepared by an attorney. Addio makes this subject more approachable and affordable for families to do from the convenience of their own home. Instead of turning families away that can’t afford an attorney, I can now provide them with a great solution that will better fit their needs.
Gabe: How do you plan on partnering with Addio?
Gayanne: I see Addio being a great tool that all of my families can use to store their estate plans, organize their assets, list final arrangements and share their wishes and wants with their loved ones.
I also look forward to helping Addio families who need help in creating trusts, administering an estate, navigating probate, or establishing a guardianship or conservatorship.
Gabe: Let’s end with the lightning round. What are some of your personal interests or hobbies?
Gayanne: I spend a lot of time riding the trails with my Tennessee Walking horses and going to the rodeo. I live in Utah in the Rocky Mountains, and I’m an avid downhill skier. Lastly, I love to travel; my two favorite places have been the Galapagos Islands/Machu Picchu, Peru and the Phillipines – the scuba diving there is incredible!
Gabe: What’s your favorite TV show, past or present?
Gayanne: I do not watch much television but I do enjoy NCIS Los Angeles and NHK Grand Sumo Wrestling.
Gabe: What’s your go-to lunch during the workday?
Gayanne: Mongolian beef at a Chinese restaurant close to our office.
Schmid Jacobs Law is a full service family law firm based just outside of Salt Lake City, UT. They have over 14 years experience in helping families to create sophisticated estate plans, set up guardianship and conservatorship, navigate probate and other family-related services.