About Nina B. Stillman
Why I Practice Business Law And Estate Planning
What is more important than your family and your business? I was one of those annoying kids who “knew everything” and knew what I wanted to do with my life by the age of 10. I was going to be a criminal lawyer based on my innate sense of justice (picture me with my hands on my hips and a cape flowing behind me) !! I studied Political Science in college and went straight through to law school – ready to get out there and save humanity as fast as possible. Then I realized I would have to work with some pretty unsavory types and that it wasn’t the most satisfying prospect for my career. I took my sense of justice to a different place.
I still wanted to help make sure that families were protected and that the assets and the lifestyles that my clients work so hard for are handled the way they desire, rather than the way the state or federal government thinks things should be handled. Protecting and helping families, one generation at a time or many generations down the line – whether the opportunity to do so is during times of growth or when one of their leaders has passed away – is like putting a big puzzle together. All of your family members, the assets, and your concerns are the inside pieces; and the tax and estate laws form the corners and edge pieces which will contain the others. Making all of the pieces come together to match your perfect picture is what excites me.
Business owners, have additional and sometimes more complex pieces to consider during their lifetimes and when they pass away as well. How do I expand my business and what are the consequences? Who will take over that business? How will I be able to get the value that I built out of that business for my family? Will there be enough to be charitably inclined? Do I really have to pay that much in Estate and Income Tax? How can I protect myself from liability exposure? Their puzzles tend to look more like the yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz with many twists and turns to the path in the picture.
What Makes Me Different?
Seeing first-hand the transformation of my Dad from employee to becoming a business owner, and what that meant for our family throughout the life of his business gives me a distinct advantage. My dad and his partner were best friends until the day my father passed away. The ups and downs of the business affected everything in our family on a very practical basis from how we ate, whether we were able to take a vacation, what happened when my parents divorced, to where I was able to go to college. I saw all the issues that affect business – crime, additional owners, hiring and firing employees, dramatic growth and success. The lifecycle of that business along with law school was the beginning of my education.
I learned from an early age that risk management and looking at any situation from several angles is the name of the game. Studying Political Science didn’t help me much with business other than to learn to be diplomatic and strategic, but my business clients will tell you that as well as possessing those skills, I speak their language and that I love smelly old warehouses! I understand how the business runs, the issues that it may face and how all of that affects them personally as well.
I was able to combine my love of business and love of protecting business owners and their families by combining practices in both the areas of Estate Planning and Business Law. The ability to look at a situation from an income tax perspective, estate tax perspective, risk management perspective, and a personal and practical perspective makes me stand out from other attorneys.
Again, my education began at the dinner table. By the age of 10 or so, I knew that a business could and may want to own its operations separately from its inventory and those separately from its real estate. I took the knowledge gained through my informal business education and applied it all through College at the University of Wisconsin in Madison – (Go Badgers!) and Law School at William Mitchell College of Law (now the Mitchell Hamline School of Law) in St. Paul. Minnesota. I graduated law school in 1990. (You can do the math).
In a down economy of the early 1990s I took positions as a real estate examiner finding flaws in the title to real estate, and a life insurance salesperson – until I realized that I am not boring or a good closer! I also worked as a business broker for a while selling small businesses. I worked for several large banks in Wealth Management or the Trust Department and rose to the level of Senior Vice President. After being frustrated with the institutional life, the lack of creativity, and all of the badly drafted documents I saw, I went on to realize that as a licensed attorney I could better help people prepare their estate planning documents and apply my business knowledge as well for business owners. I have practiced on my own and with a few different small and mid-sized law firms in Minnesota. I like my clients to be a big fish in a small to mid-sized pond rather than just a file number.
After moving to Chicago in 2012, I again tried the big bank route, and within a short time found my home, with people who share my values and work ethic here at Hecht Schondorf, LLC.
Who Am I?
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota with a one-year stint in New Orleans, where I learned how to talk with an adorable drawl, I am a mid-westerner at heart. I love Minneapolis and was very involved with the community there for several years. My family is still there and I visit often. I have always been adventurous and had a yearning for new experiences. I moved to Chicago in 2012 ready for a bigger city, more friends and more community. I live in the city with two crazy cats and besides volunteering, I try to explore as often as possible enjoy all it has to offer; especially golf courses.