I’m Jennifer Gumbel. I’m an estate planning and probate attorney in Minnesota. When I grew up, I may have loved (and still do) “A Few Good Men”, but being a lawyer was never on my radar. I wanted to teach. Being a teacher was and is my gift. As I went through college, I quickly learned that I didn’t have the high energy to keep up with little kids or get young adults interested in something. I wanted people to come already fired-up.
That’s how I discovered the law. After shadowing a small-town, transactional attorney in my hometown of Brandon, South Dakota, I knew the law was for me. People came in invested in knowing the answer. And, I really dug “death law”, probate law and estate planning. It’s all about educating people and minimizing legal issues. I was also specifically prepared for it in a way most lawyers aren’t.
My father suddenly died from an aggressive cancer when I was fourteen. People, lawyers included, are weird about death and can be unsure how to approach the issue. I don’t and I’m not. Young parents planning for a worst case scenario, people who just got a diagnosis, the elderly coming to grips that more life is behind than ahead, I can wrap my head around that. Helping people walk through legal issues or reducing the legal to-do list they’ll leave for their loved ones is my super power.
Not only do I do this in my day job in a firm in Austin, Minnesota, I blog and podcast about it. I share the tools and information that all of us in “death law” wish every client knew coming in and show people when and why working with an attorney is important. It’s my way of swiping at death.
As a society we might have come leaps and bounds in knowing how to frankly discuss things like money and sex, but haven’t made much ground in overcoming awkwardness dealing with death. That awkwardness actually does a disservice to the ones we love, because if we don’t deal with our own mortality, we force our loved ones to deal with it for us. Organizing those affairs isn’t being morbid, it’s just good sense.