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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. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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