Hmong Estate Plan: Lawyer Learns More From a Hmong Family

Hmong Estate Plan
Hmong Estate Plan

A Hmong estate plan shouldn’t be any different from anybody else, right?  Wrong.

I apologize in advance for not knowing enough about Hmong culture.  Luckily, I am learning as much as I can, as fast as I can.

If you are unfamiliar, Hmong means “free”.  Today, I want to share about my experiences serving a Free Hmong Family.

Hmong Estate Plan:  Introduction

My day started with a cup of coffee.  I was preparing for a consultation with a Hmong family.  When this particular family described themselves as Hmong, I didn’t think much of it.  Instead, I prepared as I had always done in the past.

Typically, a consultation involves listening to a family express their goals and concerns.  Then, I follow-up by asking dozens and dozens of questions.  I do this for one reason:  pinpoint legal issues.

However, my meeting with a Hmong family needing help with their estate plan was different.

Instead of asking dozens of questions, I found myself absorbing a story about freedom.  Given my past, I thought I had a strong grasp on freedom.  Luckily, my new Client proved I could learn more.

What I heard next, might surprise you.  If you are Hmong, maybe it won’t.

Home Estate Plan:  What did I Hear?

What I heard was absolutely empowering.  I learned how one family escaped or embraced:

  • Growing up in poverty,
  • The death of both parents,
  • War,
  • Adoption,
  • Living in refugee camps for years,
  • Parents having more than one spouse at the same time,
  • Loosing siblings to disease,
  • The process of finding half brothers and sisters,
  • Relatives lost, and
  • The satisfaction of having children born on American soil.

Although I was very familiar with these issues on a one for one level, I must admit, I wasn’t prepared for all of these events at once.

Even more amazing,

my new friends spoke of these issues as if they were easy to overcome.

I knew this wasn’t the case, but listening to a first-hand account of genuine hope, love, freedom and faith was empowering.

I didn’t tell them at the time, but I couldn’t wait to meet with them again and again because their spirit was contagious and I wanted to learn more.

Hmong Estate Plan:  What did I Do?

The first thing I did was capture their perspective.  Like so many families I had worked with in the past, I needed to focus on the most important part of nearly every estate plan:  the children.

The second thing I did was acknowledge and embrace the family and friends living oceans away inside refugee camps.  This is absolutely critical because their voices need to be understood, even if they had the potential of being lost or they were to far away for confirmation.

The third thing I did, required me to think through every outcome I could imagine:

  • Immigration,
  • Emigration,
  • Family members re-appearing, and
  • Memorializing a family’s new legacy.

In case you are wondering, I found this step to be the most rewarding, yet most difficult.  For one, imagining a young person growing up in a refugee camp without parents brings a new problem: emotional fatigue.

On the other hand, I needed to focus on my goal: passing a legacy onto their  children and grandchildren.

Fourth, I had to help the Free Family organize their documents for the future.  If required, the guardians they selected needed to know their story too.

Hmong Estate Plan:  What I didn’t Do

What I didn’t do was stop asking questions.  With every answer, I had to ask more and more.  I could not take for granted the steps it took for my Hmong Client to reach the United States.

Even more significantly, I could not assume my Hmong Estate Plan could disregard their untraceable community or family thousands of miles away.

Hmong Estate Plan:  The Future is Bright

If you are reading this, I want to say thank you.  Your story filled me with hope.

No, I couldn’t have slept unless we took the necessary time to document and organize every little detail.

So you know, every family has your same worries and concerns.  Now, the future is bright for your children and they are protected from reasons you sought freedom.  God bless you and your family.