Small business: Merger unites firms specializing in elder law

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 9, 2014 - 11:15 AM

After joining forces, attorneys and staff at Maser, Amundson, Boggio & Hendricks continue to help clients and families deal with issues related to aging.

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Luther Amundson, Peter Hendricks, Kris Maser and Randy Boggio have combined their two law firms that specialize in helping people deal with aging-related issues.

Photo: JOEL KOYAMA , Star Tribune

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For more than two decades, pioneering Twin Cities elder law attorneys Kris Maser and Randy Boggio and their firms have helped individuals and families manage legal, financial and care issues related to aging.

While often discussing the complexities of their highly specialized practice area, they had worked separately — until October, when they merged their firms to form Maser, Amundson, Boggio & Hendricks.

“Randy and I have been meeting for 23 years, once a month,” said Maser, who was joined at those standing lunch meetings by shareholders in their respective firms, Luther Amundson and Peter Hendricks. “Periodically we would say, ‘We should just merge.’ Then we’d walk away or do our work. The last time we said it, none of the four of us left the table. We just kept talking.”

The merger creates a one-stop destination for education, representation and support in matters related to elder law. The merged firm also offers estate planning, life care planning, supplemental and special needs trust services and litigation involving trusts, probate and conservatorships. A social worker is on staff to help families develop care plans and assess assisted- living and nursing home options.

‘Bigger footprint’ for small firm

“We’re a small firm, but we have a much bigger footprint in the elder law area than we had before,” Amundson said. “There’s no question this was the right thing to do for us, for clients, for everybody.”

The firm should find no shortage of work, with tens of millions of baby boomers reaching retirement age over the next 20 years. Plans call for the firm to continue to grow organically, primarily through referrals from clients, social workers, hospitals, financial planners and lawyers. Another strategy? Continuing service to successive generations of families.

“For the boomers turning 65, their parents are turning 85 or 87, so they’re feeling the crunch from both ends, trying to get their kids through school and get their parents taken care of,” Boggio said.

The only thing the firm of Maser, Amundson, Boggio & Hendricks is missing for now is a permanent home for its nine attorneys and 18 other employees. While they’ve merged their practices, the attorneys continue to work in separate locations in Richfield and Bloomington. Amundson said the firm expects to consolidate its operations in a single office later this year.

The firm now can take a holistic approach, Maser said, with attorneys simultaneously working on separate aspects of a client’s case, so, for example, estate planning can take place at the same time as life care planning and trust work.

Maser’s background in caregiving, helping her father through a 28-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, prompted her to work in elder law.

Boggio, whose care for a relative with Down syndrome inspired him to pursue a law degree, successfully defended the right of a disabled person to receive benefits from a parent’s trust without jeopardizing the client’s state benefits. His victory, the first such case to go before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, led to legislation recognizing and defining supplemental needs trusts in Minnesota.

Client Barb Huwe, said she worked with the firm to coordinate care and make financial and legal plans after her husband became disabled.

“He thought I had made a very good choice in the firm,” Huwe said her ­husband, also a lawyer, told her before he died. “That meant a lot. It was more than seeing a lawyer for a will. They were concerned about me as a caregiver. That gave me a lot of peace of mind, to have them look over everything.”

The firm helped client Nina Shepherd, who had been caring for her father after he got an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, arrange housing as well as care and a pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs for the Korean War veteran.

“I get to be my dad’s daughter; I don’t have to be caretaker anymore,” Shepherd said. “My dad will be cared for forever.”

The expert says: Mike Ryan, director of the Twin Cities Small Business Development Center at the University of St. Thomas, said mergers between law firms and other professional services agencies appear to be accelerating. Advantages include sharing administrative costs and spreading fixed costs over a greater number of billable hours, he said.

“Financially it makes a lot of sense,” Ryan said. “The usual problems we see with any of these professional firms merging are cultural or if the pay scales are different. With these people having been meeting for years, I don’t sense that’s going to be an issue.”

 

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.

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