Matters of Life and Death
BY ADAM WAHLBERG
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD FLEISCHMAN
Susan Link is a master at guiding
clients through the process of drafting
a will, designating a power of attorney,
establishing a health-care directive. As the
head of the estate planning group at Maslon, it’s
her life’s work, and she’s good at it. Really good.
But nothing could have prepared her to update her
own will while giving birth to her premature son and
dealing with complications.
“I really thought I might die,” says Link of the
2001 birth. “I had a will but I hadn’t named a
guardian in the event that something happened to
my husband and I. I realized that if I didn’t write this
down there would be a fight over who would raise
my kid. So I asked my paralegal to bring my will to
me when I was very sick so that I could make sure
this would not be an issue. I remember her telling
me, ‘This is morbid, Susan.’”
She made it through both the delivery and the
will-amendment process. She’s continued working on
estate documents at a healthy pace ever since.
Susan Link has a deep devotion to estate planning.
Her pro bono work with Wills For Heroes is a big reason why
LINK GREW UP ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO, in
the shadow of steel mills. She had a quick mind and a
verbal dexterity that served her well in class. “I talked
a lot,” she says. “People would say to me, ‘You ought
to get paid for that.’ I thought they were right.”
Her Uncle Emil set an early legal example. “Emil
Caliendo was his name,” Link says from her office in
downtown Minneapolis. “He was a lawyer. He’d be at
our house at family parties and I would hear him tell
stories about helping people. I thought that was cool.
He was a talker like me.”
At Loyola, she took a medley of classes—political
science, philosophy, theology. Then it was on to Notre
Dame for degrees in law … and guilt?
“When you’re at Notre Dame, they tell you that you
have to do pro bono; you just must. I’m Catholic, so
I’m already guilty anyway, but they really hit you hard
with it. So I knew I had to figure that out for myself. It
took me 21 years,” she says.
For a few years, Link practiced real estate law in
Chicago. Then two big things happened.