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State Bar Launches "Wills For Heroes" Program - Free Wills For First-Responders - Police, Firefighters And Emerg. Medical Personnel

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Alabama State Bar
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Montgomery, Ala., September 11, 2007 - As the nation commemorates the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania, the Alabama State Bar today (September 11) launched a statewide initiative to provide free simple wills, advance healthcare directives and powers of attorney to firefighters, law enforcement personnel and emergency medical personnel.

This pro bono program, known as "Wills for Heroes," will be 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. 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, “The events of 9/11 are a stark reminder of 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,” he said.

The first Wills clinic will be held September 11th at the Montgomery Police Department (320 North Ripley Street) where first responders can have their wills drawn from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Other clinics will be conducted in Montgomery during September, before the project moves to Mobile in October; and Birmingham in November. Huntsville and Dothan will be scheduled in early 2008.Clinics are scheduled through the various employers.

As additional lawyers are trained, local bar associations will assist in preparing the documents for first responders throughout the state.

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. As he watched news coverage of the attacks, he became inspired after hearing one of the last survivors to be freed from the rubble of the World Trade Center, Officer David Lim of the New York-New Jersey Port Authority Police, say that Americans didn't have to help clear the wreckage of ground zero in order to contribute; they could make a difference in their own communities.

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.

Crosby explained 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 15,500-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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