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Family, elder, estate law come together for Hendrix

Family, elder, estate law come together for Hendrix

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Megann Hendrix (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)
Megann Hendrix (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Megann Hendrix has built a successful legal practice combining three distinct areas — family law, elder law and estate law.

“There is a lot of crossover between the practice areas and they really compliment each other well,” said Hendrix, an attorney with the Walny Legal Group in Milwaukee. “For example, if I help a client through a divorce, he or she then may need to redo their estate plans.”

She started practicing law with a focus on family law, especially collaborative law, which allows divorcing couples to work with their attorneys on a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the threat of litigation.

“My parents were divorced and wanted to help families through that process so kids wouldn’t be caught in the middle,” Hendrix said. “Learning about collaborative law, I knew it would be a great fit with family law. I wanted divorces to go from nasty battles to a nicer way of doing things.”

A certified collaborative law attorney and family law mediator, Hendrix received the 2013 Dolphin Award and Outstanding Performance and Dedication Award to the Collaborative Family Law Council of Wisconsin. Last month, she was also honored as a 2016 Up and Coming Lawyer by the Wisconsin Law Journal.

“Family law can be stressful and emotional, so I looked for other areas to balance that out and estate law and then later elder law fit that bill,” Hendrix said. “It’s nice to switch gears and work in other areas.”

Among her three practice areas, Hendrix said elder law is the most challenging. Staying up-to-date on changes keeps her on her toes.

“The Medicaid planning part seems to change the most,” Hendrix said. “Every two years or so, the rules change.”

At Walny, all of the attorneys work on estate planning so they support each another if questions come up regarding law changes or how to handle a client’s situation, Hendrix said.

“It’s helpful to have other people right there if questions come up,” she said.

Hendrix also handles special needs trusts and the unique planning necessary for individuals with special needs. She also works with WisPACT Inc. to set up pooled and community special needs trusts for her clients.

While some may think Hendrix’ practice mix is atypical, she said they actually have a lot in common.

“All three practice areas are designed to keep my clients out of court,” she said. “With a collaborative divorce we avoid what could be difficult court hearings, while with estate planning, my clients’ families avoid probate court.”

Wisconsin Law Journal: What makes your work important to you?
Megann Hendrix: Helping my clients. I feel like I am making a difference in my clients’ lives.

WLJ: Who is your hero?
Hendrix: My mom is my hero. She had me when she was young and raised me as a single mother. I don’t know how she did it. She did an amazing job.

WLJ: What do you do outside of work to deal with stress from the office?
Hendrix: I take yoga twice a week and it really helps with de-stressing. It literally melts away the stress. I also love to travel with my husband. We have been all over the world. We believe in working hard and playing hard. We also love living in Milwaukee and just being out and being active.

WLJ: What’s one thing many people get wrong about what you do?
Hendrix: There are so many negative images of divorce attorneys out there, and I fight against that. People think divorce attorneys will just flame conflict. More people are choosing to divorce on their own because of that. I really try to talk about the collaborative process and how we focus on resolving the issues.

WLJ: What’s your favorite memory from law school?
Hendrix: Finishing that first semester and turning in that last final and thinking, “I did this.”

WLJ: Is there a certain case that stands out to you?
Hendrix: I represented a man in a collaborative divorce case that had two children with special needs. We had a lot of pretty tricky issues to resolve since both parents had different parenting styles. They also had strong personalities. If it had been a regular divorce case, there would have been a lot of conflict, but through the collaborative process we were able to keep the focus on the kids and set them up for a positive future. That was a shining example of how a collaborative divorce works.

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