Our Team is made up of an attorney, an outreach and intake director, and a client services director. But we are so much more than our individual parts and departments. We genuinely care about each other, enjoy working together, and when we sink our minds and talents at the O’Donnell Law Center, a magical synergy happens.
Deirdre O'Donnell, Attorney at Law
If there's one thing my life so far has taught me, it's the art of connection. We connect in many ways – with a look or expression, through a touch, with spoken or written words, through art, music and dance, with our actions, hand gestures and body language, and through cooking for each other. There are a million ways to connect.
But what happens after we’re gone, when we can no longer connect in these ways with our family, friends, loved ones, community and others that are important to us? How will they know our stories, how we felt about them, the values that were important to us, and how we want to be remembered?
As an estate planner, this is a question I have thought a lot about. But that hasn’t always been the case. I didn't start practicing law and preparing estate plans until I was in my late thirties. Before that, I spent a decade of my life as a professional keyboardist in the St. Louis nightclub scene. It's funny, because I now know how important connection was to even that part of my life. Not only was I connecting to my audience through music, but I was also connecting with my fellow musicians as we played.
From jazz to rock to Motown and country, I played it all. But it wasn’t the life I wanted. Fortunately, I still have a few old cassette recordings of those days. The most popular among my friends and family is that of me stepping out from behind the keyboard, taking center stage, and belting out Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical.” And while I might miss the stage now and then, I doubt anyone misses my vocals.
After leaving music, I attended Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, then a Master of Social Work. I spent the next decade working alongside and advocating for adults with development disabilities. These were people who often had great difficulty connecting and being understood. Again, that theme of connection was inescapable.
Working with these wonderful people inspired me to take my efforts even further. I went back to school, this time to study law, and received my Juris Doctorate from Washington University School of Law.
Over the next couple of decades, I became a lawyer, a wife, a mother, and then a business owner, eventually opening O’Donnell Law Center in Osage Beach, Missouri, in 2014.
Looking back, I realize what all those years of social work and gigging were preparing me for….helping others to prepare for change, loss, and ultimately death after a long life well lived. From facing our own mortality, to the death of family members, friends, neighbors and pets, the very nature of life is that it will change, and eventually – sometimes unexpectedly – end. The problem is, so few of us talk about this eventuality until it's far too late. In doing so, we often don't properly connect with our loved ones to share our stories, our values, wishes, desires, and needs.
When we fail to prepare for the end of a long life well lived, we leave our children, grandchildren other family members, friends, and community with no instruction as to what to do. This is one of the worst times in their lives, and suddenly they're forced to figure out how we'd like to be memorialized, what to do with our property, and what assets we'd like passed on to specific people and charities. It makes everything far more difficult for everyone. But it doesn't have to be this way.
Through comprehensive, personalized estate planning, which I like to call “curated” estate planning, I help individuals of all ages and stages in life, but particularly those who have already grown their families and careers, better communicate their wishes to their loved ones. Not only is it my job to facilitate meaningful long life estate planning conversations, but to remove the taboo around facing our mortality and talking about all the end-of-life decisions that need to be addressed while we are healthy and alive and able to communicate them.
Estate planning shouldn’t be about facing some dreadful event, but about putting our loved ones in the best position possible during a time that will be extremely challenging and emotional for them. It should also be about living more vibrantly in the knowledge that we have our legacy taken care of, as well as a plan for keeping our estate plan updated and current as our life and the lives of those we love continue to change.
With a proper plan in place, when a sad day comes, family will know that your legacy and worldly treasures will be transitioned according to your wishes, and they will be able to focus on grieving, not court and conflict.
I like to provide a friendly, neighborhood atmosphere for estate planning and transitioning your legacy. We guide you through our established three-meeting estate planning process so that you get it started, get it finished, and have a plan in place for keeping it updated throughout your life. I like to think that by taking my hand, I help you and others achieve the peace of mind of knowing that they have put their families and loved ones in the best position possible to handle their passing.
Your legacy is completely up to you. We live on through experiences that we create and share with others, and through the tangible assets that we accumulate and leave for others. In my case, I have no doubt that some family member will put on my rendition of Olivia Newton John's "Let’s Get Physical" during my own memorial – assuming they can get their hands on a cassette player.
I also know that through my legacy planning I will pass along the lessons I've learned throughout a life well-lived. Not just my love for music, travel and exploration, but the benefits of being adventurous and of experiencing different foods, ways of life, and cultures. I hope to also remind those who come after me of the importance of being kind and loving to others. These are the values that I hold dear, and estate planning allows me to communicate them for generations to come.
I know now that all of my experiences up until this point have been preparing me for this vital calling in life. Thanks to my unorthodox journey, I truly understand the value of communication. It allows me to connect with people of all backgrounds, ages and stages in life, using my words, my ears, and my heart, so that we can have meaningful conversations about estate planning.
Melinda Huddleston // Client Services Director
I was born in Fulton, Missouri and grew up in the small rural town of Auxvasse, Missouri. I began working for Sears & Roebuck immediately following graduation from high school in 1983. After meeting my husband, we married in 1985 and relocated to a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. We started our family early and raised two sons, Dustin, and Jacob. I began a career in the dental field after graduating from Al-Med Academy as a certified Dental Assistant. I spent 12 years sitting chairside and working for two doctors, in the O'Fallon and Town and Country Missouri areas.
As our son's grew and became more involved in sports and school activities, I made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom, and enjoyed every moment I could with volunteering, chairing school activities, and driving carloads of boys to games and practices. Whew what a busy and wonderful time!
After our children began their college years, I once again returned to the work force part-time and enjoyed a few different jobs including owning my own retail boutique and acquiring my Real-estate license. It was shortly following this point that my husband's corporate job began to relocate us to many new cities: Clearwater, FL, Tallahassee, FL, New Mexico and Phoenix, AZ, before returning to Kansas City, Missouri. It was there that my children and I lost my husband of 33 years unexpectedly to illness and I made the decision to move to Lake Ozark to be near my children, family and friends.
This move and relocation brought me to the O'Donnell Law Center where I began working in December of 2018 as the office legal assistant. Under the supervision of the Center's attorney, I work closely with all members of our wonderful and knowledgeable team.
Around June of 2020, our office began our transformation into the Lake’s “Estate Planning Place”, and I began transitioning into my new role as “Client Services Director”, or “CSD”. As CSD, I support each client through their 90-day estate planning journey with us, and to make that journey as easy and enjoyable as possible. Our communications take on many different forms - emails, phone calls, secure client portal document exchanges, video conferences, texts, and in-person meetings.
As CSD, I am also the friendly face who will greet you at our Osage Beach office, which is an appointment-only center. There, we have a big, sunny client lounge where we hold our estate planning ceremonies. I facilitate the signing ceremonies, act as notary, and manage our pool of witnesses, two of which must always participate in each signing ceremony.
In the space behind our client lounge, we have our video production area. Here, I help our clients leave a recorded legacy message for their loved ones, which we include with their estate planning portfolio. Behind this room is our portfolio production area, where you can find me either preparing the documents for the signing ceremony, or once signed, assembling them into beautiful estate planning portfolios, for delivery to our clients.
I love the comforting atmosphere and supportive processes that we have created at our Estate Planning Place and I am eager to continue contributing to the success of our Center and of our clients, who seem to live better lives knowing that they have everything in order to keep their families well cared for and loved, free from court and from conflict, after they have passed on. It is a very exciting time at O’Donnell Law Center, as we continue to adjust and change in order to always provide the very best services for our clients’ estate planning needs.
Andrea Harris // Outreach and Intake Director
I was born and raised in St. Louis County, and graduated high school in 1982. I have an associate degree from St. Louis Community College, and live with my wonderful husband Justus and son Magnus. And I am Deirdre’s younger sister!
I have a history of working with animals. I have volunteered at a veterinary clinic, worked with birds of prey and other wildlife and with animals in a domestic capacity. I was a manager in a small animal facility at Washington University. I also spent 12 years as a keeper at the St. Louis Zoo working mainly with hoof-stock and birds.
After my son was born, I became a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always said it is the same job as a zookeeper - feed them, keep them healthy and safe and enrich them, but now I just work with one species!
I enjoy researching my genealogy. I especially love discovering that the historical facts do not concur with family stories! My husband and I like to travel but we have a lot of pets and that makes travel difficult.
I re-entered the workforce by substitute teaching at my son’s school for one year, where I really enjoyed working with the children. Then I was fortunate enough to join the team at the O’Donnell Law Center when it was first established in 2014.
I am the Outreach and Intake Director (OID) for the Center, which means I am the friendly voice on the other end of the phone when you call to inquire about our estate planning services. Part of my work during that first inquiry is to help you determine if you would benefit from an educational and working session with Deirdre, which we refer to as the “Family Wealth Planning Session”. If you would, and if we agree you are a good fit for the robust and comprehensive services that we offer, then I get you scheduled for your initial meeting with Deirdre, and help you complete “homework,” which involves completing an important intake sheet and watching a few educational videos in advance of that meeting, so that I can offer you Deirdre’s Family Wealth Planning Session at no fee.
Once you have joined our client family, I help you navigate your 90-day journey with us, which culminates in your estate planning signing ceremony with our Client Services Director, Melinda.
When I am not talking with you on the phone, I have another important role at the O’Donnell Law Center that resembles that of the wizard of oz person behind the curtain. I help Deirdre with all the moving pieces of an active law business – I welcome new clients into the fold, making sure they always know and understand the next step in our process. I pay the bills, keep track of our key performance indicators and other important statistics, maintain the Center’s schedule, and keep a watchful eye over our time standards so that each estate plan moves through our process in the way that we intend for it to do.
With my support, and the support of our CSD, Melinda, Deirdre is freed up to do what she does best, which is creating conversations and comfort around the idea of death and planning for death and educating our clients and the Lake of the Ozarks community about the millions of things to think about when embracing your estate planning.
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O'Donnell Law Center
1026 Palisades Blvd.,
Osage Beach, MO 65065
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