Monday, September 6, 2010

Robin Jerstad: Solopreneur

Meet Robin Jerstad, not my client, but a compadre, a fellow traveler on the same road. Meet Robin Jerstad…‘Solopreneur,’ as the contemporary vernacular would have it.

For more than 20 years, Robin worked as a staff photographer for the Indianapolis Business Journal. In January, the victim of the economy, the newspaper reduced its staff and let Robin go. Like Tom Sawyer, Robin ‘lit out for the West,’ moving to San Antonio to be with his girlfriend. In one day, Robin went from being a ‘Company Man’ with 30 years of experience in photojournalism to becoming a sole proprietor. After making the 18 hour drive cross-country, leaving behind remnants of January snow and 20 years of professional clients, Robin started over.

Indianapolis’s loss has been San Antonio’s gain. Recently, Robin generously shared some of his photographs and the story of establishing his new business:

“I have had to learn how to become a business person,” he said. “The first revelation was that there are a lot of things that I didn’t know. Nothing is ever as easy as it should be or as easy as you think it will be.”

“I didn’t know anything about marketing, and that challenge was made even greater by moving here,” he said. “Don’t take that the wrong way. Moving here was a great thing.”

The greatest challenge has been learning to market a new venture.

“I am not the wedding photographer. I knew where my talent level was, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I just knew I needed to start over. I started this blind for all intents and purposes. It is a whole different thing, promoting yourself.”

His girlfriend helped him get started, introducing him to her family and friends. A San Antonio Express News reporter had worked with him in Indianapolis, years ago. That contact led to work and contacts at Scene in S.A., and more work followed, exponentially.

In the past, Robin has shot lots of celebs: Obama, Palin, the Clintons, Paul Newman, Ted Danzen, Stevie Wonder, the list goes on and on. Lately, Robin has photographed the new Bishop of the Archdiocese in San Antonio, Ambassador Sichan Siv wearing a cowboy hat, Morgan’s Wonderland, and practically every restaurant and chef in town (for the SA Express News's Reader’s Choice Awards).

While much of Robin’s work is commissioned, there have been a few unexpected surprises. On the way to the accountant’s office, he happened upon an armed hostage situation in progress. Of course, he had his camera at the ready, and shortly thereafter he had a photo of the police apprehending the gunman.

“It was a nice buzz to go do some spot news,” he said, laughing. “The kid with the gun. Yeah, it was great. I love pressure like that. Bring it on. I used to photograph race cars at 200 miles per hour. You can’t ask them to do it again. You’ve got to get it right.”

The second challenge has been learning how to be the proverbial C.E.O. and chief bottle washer. Tending to software problems, computer glitches, and the trivialities of running the back-office has been an eye-opener.

“’Who do I call about this? I can’t call the I.T. Department. I am not Mr. Fix-It. I just want things to work. I’m learning how to attack and make the most of all the unforeseen challenges: marketing, I.T., making sure that I remember to buy batteries, figuring out how to make a watermark.

“I think, ‘Oh hell, there’s got to be a better way to do this.’ I’m learning to be humble and not be afraid to ask.”

The third challenge for Robin is growing the business, increasing the number of leads, and generating more work.

Currently, he’s working for the San Antonio Express News, NSIDE magazine, Scene in SA. Plus, there are the commissioned portraits, the marketing photos for local celebs and nonprofits, and the occasional foray into Formula 1 Race Cars.

“Everybody knows the newspaper world is dying. I have to be aware. I’ve got to look for additional markets to contribute my particular skill set to,” he said.

“I’d like to increase the amount of publications that I do. From a revenue standpoint, I’ve got to grow the frequency with publications or expand the number of publications.”

In the meantime, Robin is hanging out at all the local haunts and watering holes, snapping shots, and checking out all things ‘Texas.’

“I’m a boy from the Midwest, and pardon the satire, ‘Y’all do things differently down here,’ he said. “I’m learning about Texas. What it is. What it means to people.”

For more photographs, see or Jerstad Photographics at For more information find Robin Jerstad on Facebook and LinkedIn. Call 210-254-6552 or email


Pet Trusts 101: Estate Planning for the Benefit of Animals in Texas

Americans spend $41 billion a year on their pets. That’s more than the gross national product of all but 64 countries in the world, according to Packaged Facts, a consumer research company in Rockville, Md. The yearly cost of buying, feeding, and caring for pets exceeds what Americans spend on the movies ($10.8 billion), video games ($11.6 billion), and recorded music ($10.6 billion) combined. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reports that 42% of dogs now sleep in the same bed as their owners, up from 34% in 1998. Pet food reflects every fad in human food—from locally sourced organic and vegan snacks to gourmet meals supplemented by, say, glucosamine to ward off stiff joints. Half of all dog owners say they consider their pet's comfort when buying cars and almost a third buy gifts for their dogs' birthdays. The numbers are expected to be even higher for horse owners.

Even in tough economic times, pet ownership is on the rise. Americans continue their love affair with pet ownership, elevating their pets to the status of family members. People do so because pets offer their humans support, consolation, love, and stress relief. In return, humans view their pets as family. In Texas, it is possible to provide for pets in a will or in a pet trust.

While animals are considered property under Texas law, the law permits the creation of pet trusts designed to pay for pets’ care. To benefit a pet, a will may contain any one of several provisions. Each has a unique approach.

First, a will may contain language making a bequest of an animal to a friend or relative. This approach makes an outright ‘gift’ or bequest of the animal to the beneficiary. The beneficiary becomes the legal owner of the animal, and he or she may keep or sell the animal.

Second, a will may create a trust for the care of the pet. Section 112.037 of the Texas Trust Code permits creation of a pet trust for the care of an animal. Upon the death of the maker of the will—known as the testator—a trust is created. The will leaves a specific dollar amount to fund the trust, and the trust is overseen by a person serving as a trustee. The trustee then uses the money in the trust to pay for the pet’s wellbeing.

When making a pet trust, there are a few things to keep in mind. The caretaker of the animal and trustee should be people who are in good mental and physical health. Each person should have agreed in advance to serve. Even better, the pet caretaker, beneficiary or trustee should promise to care for the animal in writing. The trustee should be a reliable, prudent person whom the testator trusts. In order to avoid any potential conflict of interest, it would be best if the trustee and caretaker are not the same person. To safeguard the animal, the executor of the will could be given the power of inspection so that he or she could visit the pet to be sure that the animal is receiving quality care.

In order to avoid a will contest, the amount of money placed in the pet trust should be reasonable. The situation of the testator’s relatives should be considered. A will creating a large trust for a pet while leaving small bequest to human family could be vulnerable to a will contest if the relatives were so inclined. Take, for example, the case of Gail Posner (the widow of legendary hostile-takeover executive Victor Posner) who died in March in South Florida leaving a will that endowed her beloved Chihuahua Conchita (and two other dogs) a $3 million trust fund plus the run of her $8.3 million mansion for their remaining dog years. (Conchita's bequest includes a four-season wardrobe, diamond jewelry and full-time staff). Posner's only living child, Bret Carr, who admits that he had issues with his mother, is challenging her $26 million-plus will (that left him $1 million) because he says Posner's staff and bodyguards will wind up with the bulk of the riches as they care for Conchita.

Most people do not have an $8.3 million estate or a multi-million dollar bequest to animals at the expense of their relatives. Still, it is important to carefully consider any bequest, the possibility of a will contest, and charitable giving.

Besides considering the creation of a pet trust, the testator should also consider the terms under which a trustee serves. The testator may wish that the trustee serve without bond, that the trustee receives reimbursement for necessary expenditures, and that the trustee receive reasonable pay.

If a pet trust seems too complicated, a third approach may be preferable. A will may simply leave a gift to an animal charitable organization for the care of the pet. The will may leave funds to a non-profit organization that houses and cares for animals, onsite. The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, the Dealey Life Care Cottage associated with the SPCA in McKinney, Habitat for Horses in Hitchcock, or the Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, Inc. in Kendalia are examples of centers that accept donations for the care of animals bequested, there. In contrast, other donations may be made to organizations that take responsibility for an animal and re-home it, such as the Pet Guardianship Program at the Humane Society of San Antonio.

When making charitable donations in a will, it is important to provide specific information in the will. Use the charity’s correct name. Many names are similar, so double-check and get the name right. Also, it is helpful to include the mailing address and tax identification number for the nonprofit organization that is selected in the will.

When drafting documents, especially wills and other ancillary documents, a do-it-yourself approach is not the wisest course of action. Because of the difficulty in drafting wills creating pet trusts or bequests to charities, it is important to consult with an attorney familiar knowledgeable about estate planning.

Online or fill-in-the-blank documents may not contain all elements required by state law in order to be valid. Because every estate plan is unique, individuals should consult the advice of an attorney before finalizing wills and other documents.


Estate Planning Part 2: The Rest of the Story

Everyone needs a will. At different times in peoples' lives, they need other, ancillary estate planning documents. These documents guide financial, medical, and end-of-life decisions. Are you covered? Consider these important documents and their purposes.

Statutory Durable Power of Attorney--This document allows an individual to designate someone to manage his or her financial affairs in case of disability. The powers granted in the document can become effective immediately or can become effective upon disability. Either way, the document will still be effective even after the person becomes disabled. That is why it is called a durable power of attorney. This document is very powerful, and it should not ever be entered into lightly. The designee must be someone who is 100 percent trustworthy. Texas has a statutory format to be used to help improve acceptance of the document by third parties. (Without a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, a Guardianship would likely be required to take over a disabled person's financial affairs. Guardianships require continuing oversight by the Court, are very expensive, and expose a person's private business, making it a public record.)

Medical Power of Attorney--This is a companion document to the Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. The Medical Power of Attorney names the people who will make health care decisions during an individual's disability. This document is particularly valuable where someone other than a spouse will be making those decisions.

Directive to Physicians--This document is sometimes called a Living Will. It allows an individual to decide in advance if he or she wishes to have artificial measures used to sustain life when the person is near death. Many people do not wish to be kept alive by artificial respirators or feeding tubes in the event that they will not be able to sustain life on their own. Without this document, doctors may be required to use all heroic measures available to sustain life. This document can help maintain a person's dignity and preserve assets for beneficiaries.

HIPPA Release--This document allows an individual to decide if he or she wishes that doctors share information with designated individuals. Without a HIPPA release, doctors will not share information--with domestic partners, 'significant others,' friends or even relatives--because a doctor has a confidential doctor-patient relationship with the individual.

Declaration of Guardian in Advance of Need--This document allows an individual to designate today who his or her guardian should be tomorrow, if guardianship ever becomes necessary due to incapacity. It also allows an individual to disqualify people from ever serving as his or her guardian. Period. This document can bring peace of mind and assist the court in making a proper guardianship designation if the need arises.

Declaration of Guardian for Minor Children--This document allows parents to decide in advance who they both would like to have guardianship of their children in the event that both parents become incapacitated or predecease their children. Without this document, the court may decide where and with whom the children live. The court may select relatives that an individual would prefer not raise their children. This document provides peace of mind for parents.

Form to Donate Body to Medical Study--This document allows an individual to donate his or her body to an institution for scientific study. If a donation is to be made to a specific institution, documents from that specific institution may need to be completed, as well.

Appointment of Agent to Dispose of Remains--This document allows an individual to designate someone to sign papers releasing the individual's body after death to the funeral home or institution of scientific study.


About Lisa C Smith

Attorney Lisa C. Smith believes that many legal problems can be resolved by working out agreements, legal documents, and creative solutions for businesses and families. Her goal is to provide quality legal representation with personal service and respect.

Read more at Lisa C. Smith's website.

Social Media

Contact Lisa

Call for a consultation today at 210.863.7472

Lisa will meet with you in her downtown San Antonio office near the courthouse. For clients with pressing schedules, appointments may be conducted over the phone or after-hours.

This Blog is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

  © Free Blogger Templates Photoblog III by 2008

Back to TOP