Two Minnesota Law Students Win MSBA Writing Competition

The Probate, Trusts, and Estates Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) hosted an annual writing competition, inviting law students to compete for a cash prize by writing a short piece on a topic selected by and of interest to the section. Two Minnesota Law students Jasmin Hernandez Du Bois, 2L, and Sierra Grandy, 2L, won this year’s competition. The prompt for the 2023 competition was to “identify one or more barriers that prevent access to justice in probate, trusts, and estates law, and provide ideas for how to remove those barriers.”

Hernandez Du Bois wrote about the intersection of probate and the prison system. The judges were impressed by Ms. Du Bois’ attention to detail at a practical level, including a proposed statutory change to address possible concerns of this segment of the population. She wanted to highlight the challenges and barriers incarcerated individuals face during estate administration. She said, “Prisoners are people. They face the same life challenges that we do, including estate administration after the death of a loved one. The current rules in place for prisoners recovering an estate are difficult, punitive, and wholly inefficient. My article centered on how Minnesota probate code and the MNDOC can amend their policies to allow prisoners to recover their rightful inheritances in a way that is ethical, practical, and administratively feasible.”

Grandy's entry was about estate planning for neurodivergent clients. In the announcement about the competition, MSBA noted “Our learnings from her piece began with something estate planners know all too well:  Estate planning can be daunting. The subject matter, complexity, and antiquated language involved can present barriers to anyone, but those barriers might be uniquely experienced or especially acute for neurodivergent clients.” The judges were impressed by Ms. Grandy’s client-focused approach to providing legal services.

Grandy shared her motivation for writing about this topic, “I wrote Barriers to Estate Planning for Neurodivergent Clients. I knew I wanted to write about something that related to individuals with disabilities and as I started to research the topic I found that very little has been written about neurodivergent people and estate planning. As a neurodivergent person myself and as someone who frequently speaks on neurodivergent topics, my goal was to write something that would teach the attorneys on the committee something new about neurodiversity and maybe make them think about the accommodations and communication styles they use when working with their clients.”