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Young Lawyers: A Call to Action - To Give Back to Our Heroes

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Y O U N G L A W Y ER S
NOVEMBER 2009
N EV A D A L A W Y ER
A CALL TO ACTION – TO GIVE BACK TO OUR HEROES
BY L AURA GRANIER, YOUNG L AWYERS CHAIR
“This is our chance to help protect our heroes’ families and loved ones from being left with these difficult, unanswered questions.”
What would you do for someone who ran into a burning building and saved one of your loved ones? How would you thank a person who risked her own life to save yours? Every day, we enjoy liberty and freedom that is protected and defended by individuals who go to work or report for duty, hoping they will return home safely to their families, and knowing that they might not. These individuals accept that, when others are running away from disaster and danger, they will run toward it, to face it head on, and protect and rescue others. They understand the consequences of what they do. They know that, someday, they might have to rely on someone else to tell their own loved ones how much they cared for them, one last time. Veterans, men and women serving in the military and first responders are all heroes to us and deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. As attorneys, on our worst days, the thought probably never enters our minds that we will not return safely home when our work is completed. We are thankful beyond words for the great sacrifices these heroes have made, and continue to make, to ensure us all our freedom, our liberty, our pursuit of happiness and the ability to feel safe in our homes. They keep our loved ones and ourselves safe and, for that, we are thankful beyond words. So, we ask ourselves, what can we, as lawyers, do to show our appreciation to these men and women who give so much to us and others? One thing we can do is initiate the Wills for Heroes Program in Nevada. Preparing a will is a sobering reminder of our mortality. Perhaps that is one reason so many people put off this seemingly unpleasant task. According to some surveys, as much as 55 percent of
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the general population has no will. Those numbers are even lower among first responders. Notwithstanding the dangers they face day-to-day at their jobs, a surprisingly large number of first responders do not have even simple wills. Imagine the pain of not only dealing with the loss of your loved one who has died in the line of duty, but also of dealing with the challenge of not knowing their last wishes. This is a call to action. This is our chance to help protect our heroes’ families and loved ones from being left with these difficult, unanswered questions. Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Anthony Hayes, a lawyer in South Carolina, started the Wills for Heroes program. Over the last several years, it has been seeded in many states and now provides estate planning services to thousands of men and women who serve on the “front lines.” Wills for Heroes provides free wills and other estate-planning documents to first responders and their spouses or domestic partners. Qualified first responders include police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and corrections and probation officers from federal, state, county, city, and town departments and agencies. In Nevada, we would also like to extend the program to those in the military. Working with agency coordinators, the Wills for Heroes program provides this free service by bringing together first responders with attorneys, notaries and witnesses at a department station, training facility or headquarters, for a predetermined event date, usually a Saturday. The department’s or agency’s sole responsibilities are to provide the meeting space and coordinate the appointments. In advance of the Wills for Heroes event, participants download
NOVEMBER 2009
and complete an estate-planning questionnaire (compiled by estate planning experts in each state). Receiving the questionnaire in advance allows the participants to think through important decisions and discuss them with their family members prior to the event date. On the day of the event, the hero signs in and executes a disclaimer and then meets with an attorney, who reviews the questionnaire and enters the information into a laptop loaded with the document assembly software platform HotDocs, by LexisNexis. The attorney reviews the draft estate-planning documents with the first responder, to ensure that each person understands and agrees to what they are executing. Once finalized the documents are signed, witnessed and notarized. The Wills for Heroes program does not keep a copy of the participants’ documents or information. The Young Lawyers Section is interested in launching this important program in Nevada, in an effort to give back to those who keep us and our loved ones safe and defend our freedom and liberty. If you are interested in volunteering to help get this program going in our state, please contact me at lgranier@ lionelsawyer.com. What better way to say thanks to our heroes?
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