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First responders given legal help

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Young lawyers of state group provide free estate planning

Todd Allen, a firefighter in the Kernersville Fire Department, had not given a lot of thought to having a will or other estate-planning papers drawn up.

"I hadn't taken the time to do it," he said.

Yesterday, Allen and his wife got help with wills, powers of attorney and other legal paperwork, courtesy of Wills for Heroes, a public-service project of the Young Lawyers Division of the N.C. Bar Association. The initiative is part of a national effort supported by the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association.

It offers estate-planning advice and documents to first responders and their spouses.

Wills for Heroes began in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when it was discovered that many of the emergency responders who died did not have wills.

Capt. Barry McLean of the Kernersville Fire Department pulled together yesterday's event, which was held at the department's headquarters.

"It took a lot of organization and about three years, but it was worth it," McLean said.

He said that he found out about the program after nine firefighters were killed in a sofa-store fire in Charleston, S.C., in 2007. Most of those firefighters also did not have wills.

Estate planning is important for everybody but especially for first responders.

"If they die in the line of duty, there is a lot of money involved," McLean said.

The estate of someone killed in the line of duty could receive up to $750,000 so it is important to figure out in advance what is to be done, McLean said.

About 60 local first responders came out to talk with a volunteer lawyer and have the documents drawn up. It took about an hour to get the paperwork such as living wills, filled out and notarized.

Paralegals, law students and notary publics also turned out to help, said Susan Finch, a lawyer from Cary, who serves on the bar association's coordinating committee for the Wills for Heroes project.

"We have about 40 volunteers signed up today to help," she said.

Dawn Morgan, AttorneyOne of yesterday's volunteers was Dawn Morgan, the mayor of Kernersville and a lawyer.
 
"They give us peace of mind and this is peace of mind for them," Morgan said of the first responders who attended the workshop. "It's a great service."

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