Changes at Spence Legal Services

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Photo Credit:  Thomas J. Spence Images

“Sometimes in the winds of change, we find our true direction.” – Anonymous

When I started to share with clients, friends and colleagues the news about my move from Buffalo to Minnetonka, I was met with numerous questions:  I thought you loved Buffalo, why are you leaving?  Will you still practice law in Wright County?  Why Minnetonka? Will you continue to do contested guardianships and conservatorships throughout the State of Minnesota?

Here is a little bit more insight into why I decided to move the physical office of Spence Legal Services to Minnetonka.  If anyone has further questions, please feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email.

Why I Moved to Minnetonka (and Why I Still Love Buffalo!)

I originally started practicing law in Buffalo because I obtained a judicial clerkship with the Honorable Bruce Douglas in Buffalo.  I enjoyed working in Buffalo so applied for an opening as an associate with a local firm and have remained in Buffalo ever since.  I love Buffalo and Wright County.  I plan to continue to remain active in Buffalo and Wright County.  I will still be a member of the Rotary Club of Buffalo and attend their weekly meetings, as well as mentor a high school student through the Rotary STRIVE program.  I have made arrangements with a couple of local businesses to use conference room space and will schedule appointments with clients in Buffalo by request.

I decided to move Spence Legal Services’ office to Minnetonka because it will allow me to focus my practice on conservatorship and guardianship work, and to expand the reach of my guardianship practice to  serve clients throughout the metro area (as well as continue to represent individuals in Wright County and greater Minnesota).

New Office to Better Serve Clients

The location of the office – in the Carlson Towers in Minnetonka – is central and convenient for most individuals in the West and North metro areas, as well as many of the people that I serve in the outlying communities, who work in the metro area.  In addition, I will be able to better serve my clients because my office has meeting locations throughout the Twin Cities metro, allowing me to meet with clients at locations and times that are convenient for them.  I will continue to have appointments available in Buffalo, upon request, for those clients who are not able to meet in my Minnetonka office.  I will also have meeting rooms available in the following cities, to serve clients throughout the entire metro area:  Bloomington, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Lake Elmo, Maple Grove, Minneapolis, Roseville, St. Louis Park, St. Paul.

The office itself will allow me to serve clients better because I have access to more complete services, including staffing and conference facilities.

As always, I will continue to take on cases, particularly contested guardianship litigation, throughout the state of Minnesota, as most of my clients are able to meet and provide the requested information electronically and, when in person meetings are necessary, I charge a reduced hourly rate for travel time.

Some pictures of my new office space.

Some pictures of my new office space.

Greater Focus on Guardianship and Conservatorship Law

With this move to the new Minnetonka location, my intent is to focus more on guardianship and conservatorship law.   Although I currently do some family law (dissolutions), my hope is that within the next couple of years 100% of my practice will be doing guardianship and conservatorship work.

I am passionate about helping individuals and families in this area.  I became interested in this area as a result of a contested guardianship case that I had when I was only a few years out of law school.  I represented a man who was trying to obtain guardianship and conservatorship for his 90+ year old father, who was being financially and emotionally exploited by his 50-something “care giver”.  I successfully obtained a guardianship and conservatorship and the Attorney General’s office, which had been monitoring the status of my case, then prosecuted the “care giver” for financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.  It felt good to have helped the elderly gentleman, as well as his family, by having a role in removing someone who was financially exploiting this man.  Since that case, my passion for this area of law – and helping individuals and families in need – has grown.

Since then I have represented individuals in guardianship and conservatorship cases, contested and uncontested, throughout the state of Minnesota.  Given the location of my office in Buffalo, my practice in this area has been limited to some extent.  With the move of Spence Legal Services to Minnetonka, and the opportunity to meet clients through the entire metro area, I believe that I will be in a better position to help families throughout the metro.  I will also continue to participate in contested guardianship litigation throughout Minnesota (I offer reduced hourly fee for travel time).

Guardianship proceedings often start out fairly routine and then become contested. For attorneys who find themselves involved in guardianship proceedings that have become contested, I offer consulting and/or contract attorney services, which allows local counsel to continue to represent their client, with my assistance at whatever level they, or their clients, desire.

Thank You

A big “Thank You” to my clients, friends and colleagues who have supported my work in this area over the years.  As always, I appreciate your confidence in my legal abilities and appreciate the opportunity to represent and educate people about guardianships and conservatorships and the rights of incapacitated individuals.

Are guardianship proceedings in Minnesota public?

The default is that guardianship and conservatorship proceedings in Minnesota are public.  However guardianship hearings may be closed to the public in some situations.  Minnesota Statute 524.5-307 allows the court to close the hearing “upon the request of the respondent and a showing of good cause.”  Examples of when a request to close a hearing would be appropriate include: when the circumstances leading to the guardianship petition are extremely sensitive in nature – either because of medical conditions or behaviors alleged to be exhibited by the Respondent or others involved in the hearing.

Appointment of Guardian for Incapacitated Spouse by Care-Giver Spouse

Are you the care provider for your incapacitated elderly spouse, pursuant to a Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive, and you are worried about who will “take over” once you die or become incapacitated?  There are steps that can be taken to address your concerns and put in place a guardian for your spouse once you die or become incapacitated.  The details of the procedures to take are a bit complex and vary depending on your specific circumstances, but they are governed by Minn. Stat. 524.5-302.   Essentially the care-giver spouse can nominate a guardian for the incapacitated spouse – either through a Will or through a nominating document (executed with same formalities as a heath care directive).  Then when the triggering event occurs (death or incapacity of the care-giver spouse), the person who was nominated as guardian of the incapacitated spouse petitions the court for appointment.  It is an expedited appointing process that involves two steps.  Step one is an ex parte petition to the court seeking issuance of letters of guardianship.  Step two is a petition for confirmation of appointment (which follows after notice to affected parties).

Note that there are significant differences in this process from the “normal” guardianship process.  One, notice is not given to “Interested Persons” and is instead given to a more focused group of individuals. Two, the incapacitated person does not necessarily get an attorney appointed and a court visitor does not become involved.  Three, a determination of incapacity is not made by the Court.
If you have questions about this process, please call experienced guardianship and conservatorship attorney Cindi Spence Matt at Matt Legal Services.

Life Stories Remain Even After a Guardianship

In my work with guardianships and conservatorship in Minnesota, I’ve had experience with people who are subject to guardianships for a variety of different reasons:  Down’s Syndrome, dementia, alzheimers, traumatic brain injury, physicial and sexual abuse so severe that it was debilitating, etc.  Really, there are no two guardianship situations that are exactly alike.  People need guardians for different reasons.  People need different levels of guardianship.  When a guardianship is imposed, it takes away a lot of individual freedoms and rights.  Persons under guardianship can no longer do many of the things they used to be able to do themselves.  They can’t contract (for the most part).  They can’t make their own decision about medical care.  They can’t make their own decision on where to live.

But one thing they can still do is tell their stories.   Whether I’ve been representing the ward, the petitioner or the guardian, I’ve found it to be true that most of the people under guardianship love to talk about their past.  About their family.  About growing up.  About their former jobs.  About what their life was like. What is perhaps a bit surprising is that oftentimes they tell their stories quite accurately, despite having impairments that cause their short term or day-to-day functioning to be impaired.  Hearing the stories of these people is one of my favorite things about my job.  It is a joy to see the faces of individuals that are under a guardianship light up when they talk about their past. 

I encourage friends and family members of individuals under a guardianship to sit down with their loved one and get them to share their stories.  You will  not only make their day, but I guarantee you will also learn something new about your loved one.  And if you are lucky you will walk away from your conversation having learned a valuable life lesson as well.  As a ward once told me, “The most important thing my grandfather taught me was to listen and pay attention, because you are never too old to learn.”

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