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Huntsville Area "Wills For Heroes" Program Begins - Free Wills For First Responders - Police, Firefighters And Emerg. Medical Personnel

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Alabama State Bar
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Huntsville, Ala., February 18, 2008 - Today, from 8 am to 5 pm at the Public Safety Training Academy, (3011 Sparkman Drive) first responders from the Huntsville Police and Fire departments will be meeting with local attorneys in order to have wills drafted free of charge. Other clinics are scheduled at the same location for February 19-20. On Feb. 21-22 emergency medical personnel from HEMSI (Huntsville Emergency Medical Services) will have their wills prepared at the HEMSI Training Center (1057 Oakwood Avenue). All clinics will run from 8 am-5 pm.

These services are available as part of the Alabama State Bar’s statewide initiative known as, "Wills for Heroes." This project will provide free simple wills, advance healthcare directives and powers of attorney to firefighters, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel.

Wills for Heroes is a pro bono program that is being coordinated by the state bar’s Volunteer Lawyers Program and will involve the expertise of lawyers from throughout the state who are members of the bar's Young Lawyers Section, Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section, Elder Law Section, Alabama Lawyers Association, and the Alabama Association of Paralegals.

Locally, 60 members of the Madison County Bar Association have signed up to prepare the estate planning documents for area first responders.. Attorneys are not permitted to solicit business as a result of participating in this project.

State Bar President Samuel N. Crosby of Daphne (Stone, Granade & Crosby, P.C.) said, "We are
recognizing the extraordinary sacrifices that first responders make for the community everyday. They are the real heroes and this program allows the legal profession to render this service to them at no cost, and help society. The focus of this program is on Alabama’s first responders, not on the lawyers."

Clinics, which are scheduled through the various employers, have been held in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham.

The state bar's Wills for Heroes program is patterned after a similar activity that was the brainchild of Anthony Hayes, a lawyer in Columbia, S.C. Hayes wanted to do something meaningful to help as the country began to recover from the devastating attacks of 9/11.

First responders attending this clinic should be prepared to bring the following: family information
(spouse, children, grandchildren, other descendants, parents and former spouses) asset information (bank accounts, retirement plans, IRA’s, business interests, real estate interests, stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies and other assets) and debt information (mortgage and loan balances).

Experience gained from the three other states (Arizona, South Carolina, Virginia) that have adapted this program found that many first responders are men and women between the ages of 25-35 with no will or healthcare directive in place.

"Preparing a will is the ultimate expression of caring that an individual can demonstrate. We are giving them the peace of mind knowing that their affairs are in order and that their families will be provided for should the unthinkable happen," Crosby said.

The actual process of preparing a will can be accomplished in one visit due largely to the use of an automated computer software program which fills in the blanks on a template. An intake questionnaire is distributed in advance to participants who then fill in all of the information. This form provides a brief explanation of the process, calls attention to certain things individuals must beware of, and asks the participant to answer key questions necessary to draft the will. The participant sits with an attorney to review the questionnaire and then the answers are entered into a computer.

The attorney reviews the entire document with the participant to ensure they both fully understand what they are executing. After this explanation is given and any corrections are made, the will is then generated, signed and notarized. Legal fees for preparing these kinds of documents can cost as much as $1,000.

The program is limited to some extent in accordance with current law, persons with large estates
requiring tax planning or other special needs are not eligible for this program.

The 15,700-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility, competence and satisfaction of its members; improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.

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