Wills for Heroes programs provide free wills and other estate planning documents to first responders and their spouse or domestic partner. Qualified first responders include firefighters, police officers, paramedics, corrections and probation officers from federal, state, county, city and town departments and agencies. The Wills for Heroes Foundation encourages its affiliates to include retired and volunteer first responders in their programs.
Anatomy of a Wills for Heroes program
The Wills for Heroes program is unlike many other clinic or pro bono legal programs because we bring the program to the first responders’ doorstep. Working with department 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 on a predetermined event date, usually a Saturday. The department’s sole responsibilities are to provide the meeting space and coordinate the appointments.
In advance of the Wills for Heroes event, participants download and complete an estate planning questionnaire (compiled by estate planning experts in each state.) Receiving the questionnaire ahead of time is an important step in this process because it allows participants to think through a number of important decisions and discuss them with their spouse, partner, or other trusted friends.
Upon arrival at the Wills for Heroes event, the first responder signs in and executes a disclaimer. The participant is assigned to an attorney who reviews the questionnaire and inputs the information from the questionnaire into laptops loaded with the document assembly software platform HotDocs® by LexisNexis. The attorney reviews the draft estate planning documents with the first responder participant to insure that each person understands and agrees to what they are executing. Once finalized, the documents are signed, witnessed and notarized in a formal signing ceremony. On average, it takes about an hour to complete the estate planning documents. The Wills for Heroes program does not keep a copy of the participant’s documents or information.