Pro bono attorneys provide peace of mind for area seniors

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  • | 12:00 p.m. July 29, 2013
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Cecil Grant and Mike Zima assist a resident at PSI Mandarin Center with her advance directives documents.
Cecil Grant and Mike Zima assist a resident at PSI Mandarin Center with her advance directives documents.
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Local pro bono attorneys and paralegals went to PSI Mandarin Center on July 13 to serve senior citizens by creating needed advance directives documents.

The Advance Directives for Seniors Pro Bono Project is a quarterly event that provides area senior citizens the opportunity to create important legal documents free of charge.

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Florida Coastal School of Law, The Jacksonville Bar Association and the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association are working on the project. 

PSI Mandarin is a Department of Housing and Urban Development-subsidized senior citizen independent living facility.

The quarterly events are held in two parts on separate days.

On the first day, senior citizens gather for a group information session where longtime pro bono attorney Pat Vail presents information on the purposes of each of these life-planning documents: durable power of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, designation of pre-need guardian and a living will.

Residents who need the documents are encouraged to make an appointment for the second day of the event.

PSI Mandarin service coordinator Betty Lou Staab played a large role in making the free legal assistance available to the residents.

Staab's job was to schedule the residents for individual appointments with the attorneys on the second day.

She also was responsible for publicity of the service to the residents, reserving the meeting space and ensuring residents were prepared for their appointments with their attorneys.

"Without the assistance of volunteer attorneys and paralegals, many of our residents would never have access to legal services. I can see the relief on the residents' faces when they have gotten these documents signed and ready to go," Staab said.  

"This team of volunteers has provided not just important legal documents, but peace of mind," she said.

For the second day, attorneys, notaries and paralegals brought laptops, seals and printers and created and executed the needed documents for 17 senior citizens.

As attorneys interviewed the residents and offered counsel regarding the documents, paralegals composed the documents using the residents' information gathered on their lifetime planning questionnaires.

The documents were printed and executed, then scanned and archived with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. Residents left their appointments with fully executed documents reflecting their wishes and preferences.

Participating attorneys were Debbie Lee-Clark, Amelia Henderson, Rusty Mead, Mike Zima and Robyn Moore.

Volunteering paralegals and legal assistants were Margaret Costa, Connie Schoenung, Ronline Canady, Carin Deitler, Valentina Chapman, Donna Hoffman, Cecil Grant and Courtney Brown.

Sincere thanks and appreciation are extended to Mike Jorgensen of Senior Counsel Law, Vicki Joiner Bowers, Robert M. Morgan and Associates, The Law Office of Imani Boykin and The General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Section of the Florida Bar. All are volunteers and the sponsors of the quarterly events.

These events offer services that provide a greater sense of security for those who are under-represented.

They also bring awareness to the needs of seniors in our community.

Attorneys who would like information about participating in the advance directives or other pro bono events are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee chairwoman, at [email protected].



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