Fisher Tousey attorneys help clients at Estate Planning Intake Night.
By Missy Davenport, JBA Pro Bono Committee chair
Estate planning is an important issue, but not everyone is able to make plans in advance.
This sometimes results in loved ones being left to work through the process of distributing the deceased person’s property. To help address this need, the Estate Planning Intake Night was established in September 2013 as a collaboration between Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Three Rivers Legal Services. Uncontested probate matters, simple wills and advance directives are not handled by JALA, so these areas are covered by pro bono attorneys.
Several area law firms have stepped forward to help fill this gap in civil legal services for low-income people.
On the second Tuesday evening of each month, Estate Planning Intake Night is scheduled at the JALA offices Downtown at 126 W. Adams St. Clients needing assistance with probate, will creation or advance directives are screened and scheduled for an appointment with a volunteer attorney.
The attorney conducts a detailed interview with the client to gather facts about their situation and provide relevant advice. The attorney may choose to accept the case, but case acceptance is not a requirement for participating in the event.
Many law firms have volunteered to provide attorneys for this monthly event.
In 2019, the following firms have provided pro bono assistance or are scheduled to do so at Estate Planning Intake Night and most have volunteered at several in past years as well: Heekin Law; Rogers Towers; GrayRobinson; Holland & Knight; Fisher Tousey; Foley & Lardner; Farah and Farah; Smith Hulsey; Marks Gray; and Akerman.
Approximately 500 low-income persons received legal services for their probate and/or advance planning needs in the past six years.
At the June Estate Planning Intake Night, Fisher Tousey attorneys Ross Chafin, Beverly Furtick, Laura Jacqmein, Annie Janoski, Ryan Luduick and Kristie Saoud assisted several clients and also accepted all of the cases from the event.
This is the sixth year that Fisher Tousey has participated in the project and each attorney went to great lengths to make their client feel comfortable and understood. The attorneys’ efforts and assistance made a profound impact on the lives of these clients.
Janoski said the experience was important to her because, “As an estate planning attorney, I’m really passionate about the idea that everyone needs a will, no matter your economic status or family dynamics. It’s very fulfilling to be able to provide estate planning services to those who may otherwise never have them, and know that your client’s voice is being heard through these documents. The gratitude the clients express and the knowledge that you’ve put their minds at ease is its own reward.”
Jacqmein summed up her experience with the project. “Serving at JALA grounds me and reminds me why I became a lawyer,” she said.
“Just do it,” is Saoud’s advice to attorneys who are considering pro bono involvement.
Estate Planning Intake Night is an example of volunteer attorneys helping fill the justice gap. Legal services must be available to all, not just to those who are able to pay.
Attorneys who participate in pro bono programs strengthen our community and our system of justice. We are grateful for their commitment.
Would you like to help make a difference in the community? Attorneys interested in these and other pro bono opportunities in the 4th Judicial Circuit may contact Missy Davenport, chair of The JBA Pro Bono Committee, at [email protected].