Key author of the month: Professor Mary F. Radford
Beginning this month, Legal Current will highlight a Thomson Reuters key author of the month. For our first feature, we profile Professor Mary F. Radford, author of Georgia Trusts and Trustees, Georgia Guardianship and Conservatorship, and Redfearn Wills and Administration in Georgia. Professor Radford is also the Marjorie Fine Knowles Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law, where she instructs on the subjects of Wills, Trusts & Estates; Estate Planning; and Elder Law. Recently, Principal Attorney Editor Willy Howe asked her about her work as an author and her other interests. This interview was originally published in ePublished, a monthly electronic newsletter serving the key author community.
WH: What led you to focus on the subjects of wills, estates, trusts, and guardianships?
MR: In 1992, I was appointed by the Fiduciary Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia to be the Reporter for the committee that was charged with revising and modernizing the Georgia Probate Code. Subsequently, I served as Reporter for the committees to revise the Georgia Guardianship Code and the Georgia Trust Code. Each of these projects involved years of extensive research and each resulted in major legislation enacted in Georgia. Working on treatises in these areas allowed me to share with the Bench and Bar the background and historical perspective behind the extensive revisions to these Codes. I had taken over authorship of Redfearn Wills and Administration in Georgia, which at that time was the “go-to” treatise for questions about Georgia fiduciary law. Georgia Trusts and Trustees and Georgia Guardianship and Conservatorship followed naturally from my work with the revision committees.
WH: What approach do you take to enhance the value of your treatises?
MR: I try to enrich the content each year by adding in current cases not only from Georgia, but also from throughout the United States, so that customers encountering issues that have not yet been addressed by the appellate courts in this state can get an idea of how those issues were dealt with in other jurisdictions. This requires constant monitoring of many different sources. I also watch for new developments in the law that were not contemplated when the current Codes were enacted in order to provide customers a framework within which to think about these emerging issues. Examples include the legal status of children conceived using assisted reproductive technology and management of “digital assets” of an individual who has died or become incapacitated.
WH: What challenges or responsibilities do authors face today that might not have been issues in the past?
MR: Readers have many, many sources of information that were not available when only print material was in use. There is always a danger that this “new” information may not be accurate, since there is often no monitoring or editing of information distributed electronically. Today, a good author must take particular care to verify anything she puts into her works in order to attain – and maintain – a reputation as a consistently credible source of information.
WH: What trends or influences do you see having the greatest potential impact in the areas of wills, estates, trusts, or guardianships over the next 10 years?
MR: The increasing number of individuals age 65 and older has already had a tremendous impact and will continue to do so. When I began teaching in 1984, my courses focused primarily on the transfer of property at death. Today, I devote a considerable amount of time teaching students how to help their clients plan for the management of their property (and themselves) in the later years of life.
WH: Who most influenced you in your legal and authoring career?
MR: The attorneys with whom I worked on the Probate Code, Guardianship Code, and Trust Code revision committees had a huge impact on both my teaching and my writing. Each committee member brought an enriching mix of practice and theory to our debates and to the revision process. Each of them were brilliant lawyers who were willing to devote many weekends without compensation to help bring the laws of Georgia into the 21st Century. They also were all persons of the highest ethical standards who were committed to drafting laws that were balanced and solid. I learned so much from them and am privileged now to be able to pass those lessons on to my students and the users of my treatises.
WH: Describe the role or importance of your family in contributing to your success as an author?
MR: Lee Raudonis, my spouse of 32 ½ years, is a constant source of support and encouragement. In addition, he is the chief (and only) cook in our household, so he has helped me to maintain a much higher level of health and well-being than would have resulted had I been left to eat my foods of choice, which consist mainly of nuts, potato chips, and wine.
WH: What advice would you give to authors seeking a healthy balance between their responsibilities as an author and their other career and family interests?
MR: When one is fortunate, as I am, to both write and teach in the same area of law, it is easy to balance one’s responsibilities as an author with one’s career. Family balance can be a bit more challenging. There are times in all of our careers, particularly early on, when work demands can be crushing. But the upside is that the investment of time in the beginning can provide a solid foundation so that the later years are much more enjoyable.