New Program Provides Free Wills for Low Income People
Planning for the end of life is something that must be considered at any age, but many find it a more pressing issue as they transition into the later years. Often thought of as an onerous process, getting one's affairs in order can in fact lift the heavy burden on family and give peace of mind to all involved. Each individual is granted the right to decide how their financial and medical care will be handled upon death. It is important to resolve these issues before death or incapacity, and in a way consistent with the individual's belief system and values. One of the most important pieces of end of life planning is having a valid will.
As we enter our later years, getting our affairs in order brings peace of mind. Having a valid will is an important part of estate planning.
Senior Rights Assistance volunteers offer free legal and consumer information for older adults.
A volunteer helps a Senior Rights Assistance client prepare her will.
No matter how large the monetary value of an individual's estate, a will acts as an important guide to relatives, describing the person's desires as to the proper distribution of property, how he or she would like their pets cared for and by whom, what jewelry goes to which grandchildren, etc. When a person dies without a will, there is a statutory plan for who inherits the person's property—but this may not be the heirs the person would have chosen. This is yet another reason many people want to make sure they have a valid will in place.
Many seniors need a basic simple will drafted or updated, but cannot afford to hire an attorney to do it for them, and there are very limited opportunities to get wills drafted for free. This gap in legal services for those with low income has long been recognized. In collaboration with the King County Bar Association, volunteers and staff of Senior Rights Assistance have started a program to address it.
The Wills Project was conceived as a necessary addition to the Seattle Elder Law Legal Clinic, coordinated by Senior Rights Assistance (SRA) and the King County Bar Association (KCBA). At the clinic, clients can meet with a volunteer attorney for a half hour and receive free legal advice on various elder law topics. Strengthening the Seattle clinic's offerings, the Wills Project was piloted beginning in January 2010 for seniors age 55 and over. Over the course of two months, volunteer attorneys from the clinic met with clients to update or draft a will. The results were so successful that the Wills Project is being extended indefinitely.
One Wills Project client said, "I was thrilled to finally get started on my will. It's been on my mind for quite a while, but I kept putting it off. When this project came along, it got me motivated to get my act together. The appointment was made and within an hour and a short follow-up appointment, I walked out of the meeting with my will. It brings me great peace of mind and it was painless."
The goal is to make the Wills Project as seamless and as non-intimidating as possible. Clients meet with volunteer elder law attorneys who are there to support their needs.
Community agencies and organizations should feel free to refer clients with simple estate situations to SRA at (206) 448-5720. SRA Intake volunteers will conduct eligibility screening for clients who want to have a will created or updated. Clients who do not meet Wills Project eligibility requirements will be referred to appropriate community resources, or sent a list of elder law attorneys in their area. SRA is dedicated to making elder law services accessible to seniors.
Senior Rights Assistance, a program of Senior Services, supports clients with legal and consumer issues. Highly trained volunteers provide information, resources and support in the areas of Estate Planning, End of Life Issues, Substitute Decision Making, Consumer Protection, Consumer Debt and Bankruptcy, Social Security Appeals and Denials, and much more. Call (206) 448-5720 to speak with a Specialist.