Amanda Krenson, Manley Deas Kochalski LLC
After eight years of matching volunteer attorneys with qualifying applicants and recognizing a notable decline in the rate of conversion between application and completion of signed and witnessed documents, the IndyBar Pro Bono Standing Committee changed the Low Asset Wills program format this year to create a two-day clinic, reaching individuals in their respective communities. The outcome? Twenty-five individuals received free legal services (almost double the number from last year) which helped them “feel very much at peace now” and helped another complete a process he had been working on for “the last five years.”
With IndyBar’s Spring Ask-A-Lawyer program giving advice on probate and estate planning matters more than any other topic except family law, it was no surprise that the 28 volunteers at the IndyBar Low Asset Will workshops were busy. In addition to providing wills, health care powers of attorney and other advanced directives, some individuals were counseled on trusts and contested guardianship matters.
Clearly, the need continues to exist for attorneys to heed the call stated within our Oath: “I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance.” With the changes in the Indiana Supreme Court reporting requirements around the corner, the IndyBar Low Asset Wills program offered volunteers an opportunity to provide direct service to a qualified indigent population, making their donated time eligible for pro bono reporting in 2016.
IndyBar member Corrina Smith, associate at Rebecca Geyer & Associates, found the three-hour volunteer experience to be very rewarding. Noted as quite pleasant and knowledgeable by her client, Corrina assisted her client effectuate final wishes that would never have occurred had the individual died without a will.
“I practice in the area of estate planning and elder law. One of my favorite parts of this practice is that clients often share their life stories along the way – what’s important to them, how they came to be where they are today, and what legacy they want to leave after they’re gone,” Smith notes.
“The client I met with wanted to leave what little she has to charity after she’s gone. It was such a pleasure helping her accomplish that goal. I was also surprised to learn that the client I met with had recently assisted her aunt with end-of-life issues. She wanted to designate specific people to make medical decisions for her, just like she did for her aunt. People often don’t realize that an estate plan includes more than just a Last Will and Testament.”
Volunteer paralegal Jennifer Albrecht of Waples & Hanger left the event “impressed by the caliber of all the volunteers and the gentleness of the volunteer attorneys.”
Gratitude goes to the James Wright Center, a Midtown Mental Health Center, and the John H. Boner Community Center for hosting of these programs.
Interested in getting involved in a future IndyBar pro bono program? Contact [email protected] for details.•