Partnership Provides ‘Wills for Heroes’ in Arlington County

Posted: February 21, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Amy Biderman

The School of Law is partnering with several bar associations and law firms to provide testamentary documents to more than 1,200 Arlington County emergency personnel. “Wills for Heroes” is a free service that will offer wills, powers of attorney, and advance medical directives for county firefighters, police, sheriff’s deputies, and other emergency personnel. There is currently no program in place to offer this service in Arlington.

Program participants include the Arlington County Bar Association, the Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference (VSBYLC), the Virginia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (VBAYLD), Virginia Continuing Legal Education (CLE), the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division Special Committee on 9-11 Legal Assistance, Lexis-Nexis, the Fellows of the Virginia Law Foundation, Hunton & Williams, and McGuireWoods LLP. The Fellows of the Virginia Law Foundation provided funding for the program.

Leslie Woodruff, a trusts and estates professor in the School of Law, and Elizabeth Wildhack, chair of Arlington Bar’s Trusts and Estate Section Special Subcommittee, have worked with the VSBYLC and the VBAYLD to develop three basic will forms, as well as an advance medical directive and a “springing” power of attorney. Virginia CLE provided assistance in developing and coding the forms into “HotDocs,” the document assembly program donated by Lexis-Nexis.

Wills for Heroes will take a three-step approach:

  • Volunteer attorneys and law students will attend an introductory training seminar, which will explain the document templates and discuss the logistics of the program. CLE approval is pending for the seminar, with ethics credits included.

  • First responders will attend a presentation to educate them regarding the benefits and effects of estate planning in general and the specific documents being offered.
  • The volunteer attorneys, along with George Mason law students, will meet with the emergency personnel to prepare and supervise execution of the documents. To prepare the documents, Hunton & Williams is donating laptop computers and McGuireWoods is donating printers.

Wills for Heroes is the brainchild of Anthony Hayes, an attorney in Columbia, S.C. As chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division Special Committee on 9-11 Legal Assistance, Hayes led an effort to provide wills for more than 300 emergency personnel in South Carolina. The VBAYLD and the VSBYLC plan to take the Arlington program statewide. In addition, the program will serve as a model for other states that implement it with the ABAYLD’s support.

To volunteer, attorneys must complete a training session at Mason’s Arlington Campus. The first session will take place tomorrow from 9 a.m. to noon; a second session will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 25, from 6 to 9 p.m. Attorneys at each training session will sign up for the various will execution dates, which will take place in the weeks following the training sessions. To reserve a spot at either training session, contact Kim Fiske at kmitche7@gmu.edu. The program also has a special need for notaries to volunteer. Any notary public who wants to participate in the pro bono program should contact Fiske.

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