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IBA: Pro Bono Standing Committee Expands Low Asset Will Program for 2013

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By Sara B. Valenzuela, Kiefer & Valenzuela LLP

Amy is a 46-year-old single mother. She and her 10-year-old son Ben live in a modest home. Amy makes $34,000 a year as an administrative assistant. After years of dealing with her husband’s substance abuse, Amy discovered he was having an affair. She filed for divorce and obtained primary custody of Ben. Amy receives child support of $600 a month. After taxes and deductions, including the child support, Amy and Ben live off of $2,147 a month. Ben has medical needs that sometimes require expensive prescriptions, and some months Amy does not have enough money to buy all the groceries she needs. With routine home repairs and periodic car repairs, Amy is unable to save any money for the future.

Amy is greatly concerned about what would happen to Ben if she were to die. Amy has some equity in her home and a small 401(k) balance with her current employer. Amy cannot afford the advice of an attorney or to have her will and final directives formalized. She is just one example of thousands of individuals and families in the Indianapolis area who work hard to make ends meet but put off making end of life planning decisions because of the cost.

Luckily for Amy, the Indianapolis Bar Association offers a Low Asset Will Program, which is made possible through the generosity of the Indianapolis Bar Foundation. The Low Asset Will Program is designed to help as many of these individuals as possible. Every January through March, individuals apply and, based upon income, assets and home equity, are financially qualified and matched with an IndyBar volunteer attorney to draft and execute a will and advance directives pro bono.

This program makes a difference in people’s lives and it is important to our community. When asked about his involvement in the Low Asset Wills Program, long-time volunteer attorney Preston Ray of Cummins Inc. said, “Many times I’ve seen how much people appreciate being able to meet one on one with a volunteer attorney to get their affairs in order. It is a real and tangible benefit to people. Personally, I have benefitted as well, getting to meet people I would not otherwise get to meet.” When asked to share an experience, Mr. Ray said, “One story in particular comes to mind. I meet with a couple who had been married for more than 50 years and one of them got tears in their eyes as we sat in their living room and they contemplated life without the other. I thought to myself, they are rich even though they may not have a lot of assets.”

New for 2013 is a Modest Means component of the program. In years past, applicants like Amy who did not meet the criteria were turned away and their needs likely unmet. The Modest Means component will allow individuals and families with higher but still modest financial thresholds to be matched with an attorney. Low Asset Wills volunteer attorney Lea Ellingwood of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission notes, “Including a modest means component gets to the real program objective. It makes the program more attractive to attorneys in that we would be able to help a wider base of people.”

Attorneys providing services to clients at the Modest Means level will provide a free consultation and charge no more than $75 per hour for their work. Attorneys are allowed to charge less if they so desire, and all attorneys taking a modest means case must also be willing to take one case on a pro bono basis. The Indianapolis Bar Association’s Pro Bono Standing Committee is excited to provide this option in order to address the growing need in this important area of the law.

If you are of the mindset that everyone needs to have a will and final directives regardless of the ability to pay, then please volunteer for this worthwhile program. IndyBar member attorneys need only contact Caren Chopp at (317) 269-2000 or via email at cchopp@indybar.org, in order to volunteer. When you are matched with a qualified client, you will be notified by email and provided client information and form templates to use. It will be up to the applicant to contact you. If you choose to accept a Modest Means case, you will be required to assist one client on a pro bono basis as well. Thank you for considering volunteering for this worth-while program.•

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  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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