A team of volunteers including seven attorneys, four paralegals, and five law students gathered Feb. 25 to assist local seniors in creating advance directive documents.
The project was a collaborative effort of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Florida Coastal School of Law, The Jacksonville Bar Association and the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association.
The pro bono attorneys included Robert Morgan, Krista Parry, Bruce Duggar, Robyn Moore, Debbie Lee-Clark, Hollyn Foster and Pat Vail.
Paralegals Margaret Costa, Regina Colbert, Donna Hoffman and Courtney Brown, as well as law students Gabriella Vero, Hayley James, Melissa Cohenson, Camille Higham and Amanda Gray serving as scribes, witnesses, notaries and interviewers.
The attorney-paralegal and attorney-law student teams created and executed the advance directive documents including Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate Designations, Living Wills, and Designations of Pre-need Guardian for 24 local senior citizens.
Seven seniors also requested to have simple wills created and the pro bono attorneys will follow up the event with this legal service.
The Advance Directives Pro Bono Project for Senior Citizens is actually a two-day event. On Day 1, about two weeks before the document creation date, a pro bono attorney visits the residents at the HUD housing facility to explain the purpose of various advance directives.
Residents who want the documents created then make an appointment with the facility’s service coordinator to meet with an attorney on Day 2 – the date of the document creation event.
Before Day 2, the residents are asked to complete a questionnaire providing the names and contact information of the designees for their advance directives documents.
On the day of the document creation and execution, the team of volunteers arrives at the residential facility with laptops, printers, notary stamps and a scanner to successfully create and execute the needed documents.
Jacksonville Townhouse Service Coordinator Lisa Cooper summed up the event well:
“I want to thank … all of the attorneys, paralegals and students for all of their help in making our event such a success. It really warms my heart to see the younger generation wanting to donate their time to seniors, and it is nice to see the attention and care they gave each one … Thanks again for gathering together for such a wonderful day of giving.”
The giving attitude to which Cooper is referring makes programs like Advance Directives for Senior Citizens possible. This program has consistently yielded great results because of the compassion, professionalism, humility and sense of humor among organizers, collaborators and clients.
With the Advance Directives for Senior Citizens pro bono project, the legal community is reaching out to senior citizens who want to plan ahead and be confident that they have authorized persons ready to assist them as they are faced with failing health and end-of-life decisions. Without volunteers from the legal community, many of these local residents may not have been able to get assistance for the creation of these very important legal documents.
The selfless commitment of pro bono volunteers is evident throughout our legal community in Northeast Florida. In addition to the Advance Directives Pro Bono Project for Senior Citizens, there are many other opportunities for attorneys to share their legal training with low-income and vulnerable persons.
For information on ways to become involved in pro bono assistance, attorneys are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, [email protected].