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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. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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