Meet Your Merchant | Lawyer educates community about ‘scary” issues |

Meet Your Merchant | Lawyer educates community about ‘scary” issues

A mountain girl at heart, Kate moved to Tahoe three years ago and opened her practice in November of 2012.
Courtesy Spiker Photography |

More info

What: KJS Law: Estate Planning, Trusts, Wills

Location: 210 Grove St., Tahoe City


THAOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — No one likes to talk about the ugly stuff, and with Kate Shaw at KJS Law: Estate Planning, Trusts and Wills, it’s all about the ugly stuff.

“[People] don’t like to talk about worse case scenarios,” Kate said. “[Estate Planning] is a service that unless it’s in your face, it doesn’t fall on people’s priority list.”

Kate said that KSJ Law sits down with clients to discuss the worst-case scenarios in a conscientious and informed way.

Such a large part of Kate’s job is education: letting families know about the importance of estate planning and informing them of their options.

“Life happens and I don’t encourage people to be paranoid; I encourage them to be proactive.”
Kate Shaw, owner of KJS Law

“Life happens and I don’t encourage people to be paranoid; I encourage them to be proactive,” she said.


In an effort to talk about life’s more serious topics in a not-so-serious way, Kate teamed up with financial planner John Manocchio to host an event titled “Drink Responsibly.” Held at Uncorked in Truckee, the event is a wine tasting mixed with an educational and informative presentation by both Kate and John about estate and financial planning.

“Estate planning and financial planning can be a little dry,” said John. “We needed a little incentive to bring people to these events.”

As a parent, John said talking about these “scary ideas” of death or becoming incapacitated isn’t comfortable, but that Kate’s relatable and open nature puts clients at ease.

“Having someone that’s approachable makes talking about it that much easier,” he said.

As Kate discusses sensitive issues with clients, one of her goals is to know more about people’s beliefs about estate planning. Many people believe because they may not have a lot of wealth, the legal process is not an issue.

“I have so many preconceived notions that I’m up against with clients and my job is to inform them,” Kate said. “I’m myth debunking — I’m debunking the myths of estate planning.”


Kate’s love for law hasn’t always been as vibrant as it is today. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from University of California, Santa Barbara, Kate decided to go straight into law school. The young lawyer worked in family law and criminal defense for six years, and found herself feeling “disconnected from the practice.” Kate did what any true skier would and took a sabbatical near the snow.

The self-dubbed “ski bum with a law degree” spent a few years working at a coffee shop and at Truckee River Winery before a death in the family truly opened her eyes to the importance of estate planning. She and her husband Alex chose Tahoe as their home base and she opened KJS Law in November of 2012.

“I’m so much more energized and passionate because I feel like I’m actually providing a service,” she said. “This to me has a lasting effect, I’m becoming a part of somebody’s family in a way, and I’m helping them, I’m helping their kids.”


As her practice continues to grow, Kate has had to debunk a few of her own myths. Kate calls her obstacles of moving to a new jurisdiction and starting her own business in a new practice area “substantial.” Although she feels she still has ground to cover, the support in the community has been overwhelming.

“Any challenges that I’ve faced so far — believing in myself, believing in my ability to do this — has been a big thing,” Kate said.

“But on those really bad days … I’ve got this support system of other attorneys saying, ‘you can do this.’”

Kate aims to put the same level of support she has received back into the community.

As an estate planner, Kate focuses on young families who wouldn’t normally consider estate planning as an important part of their financial strategy. She believes families with a smaller asset portfolio have more to lose if they don’t plan for the future. Kate said she offers lower prices to families to make sure estate planning is possible for them. Connecting and establishing a relationship with her clients in Truckee Tahoe is a priority.

“I don’t necessarily know if I would have the same impact in a larger area,” she said. “I think a small community like this is really perfect because I’m able to have a lot more contact with the people I’m working with.”

Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at

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