Widener Law brings Wills For Heroes to Delaware
Public Relations - Published: April 15, 2010

Harrisburg campus also plans event

Widener Law has become the Delaware affiliate for the Wills For Heroes Foundation, a move that brings to Delaware the national program that provides free basic estate planning for emergency-services workers.

Founded by an attorney after the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedies, Wills For Heroes is a nonprofit program that provides its state affiliates with the tools to present events where first responders can obtain things like wills and advance health care directives at no cost. Widener Law will host such an event Saturday, April 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Barristers’ Club on the school’s Delaware campus at 4601 Concord Pike, Wilmington.

Through this partnership, the Wills For Heroes Foundation provides national exposure, software, guidance and support, while Widener Law will provide the event planning, coordination of services, staff and publicity. The services will be provided by volunteer attorneys, who are licensed to practice in Delaware, with help from law students who have completed courses in wills and trusts. Other law students will be serving as witnesses for document execution.

The Harrisburg campus will add to the effort by also holding a document-preparation event on April 17. That will take place from 11 to 5 p.m. in room L203 of the main law building. This marks the first time a Wills For Heroes Pennsylvania event is being held at a law school. The law firm of Ballard Spahr is the Pennsylvania affiliate for Wills for Heroes, and the Harrisburg campus’ Trial Advocacy Honor Society is working with the firm and others to coordinate the event.

Both document-preparation events are open to first responders including firefighters, police officers, paramedics, correction and probation officers. Services available will include basic wills, advanced heath care directives, durable power of attorney, or updates to any of those existing documents. Clients take all paperwork with them when they leave and the documents are immediately effective. The law school and the volunteers keep no copies and attorneys are prohibited from soliciting any other fee-based legal work.

Law student Damiano P. Del Pino worked to bring the program to Widener’s Delaware campus, which has the distinction of being the first law school to serve as a Wills for Heroes’ affiliate organization. A New Jersey native, Del Pino had volunteered at Wills For Heroes events in the Garden State. He proposed the opportunity to the law school administration on the Delaware campus and met an enthusiastic response.

“When I saw Delaware had no chapter for Wills for Heroes I decided that had to change,” Del Pino said. “Widener is a natural fit to be an affiliate organization. The law school places such an emphasis on public service that it just made sense to bring the two together. Everyone quickly became committed to the idea of Widener being the vessel that makes this opportunity available to Delaware’s emergency service workers.”

Law Dean Linda L. Ammons added, “Part of our mission at Widener Law is to give back to the communities we call home. First responders put their lives on the line to keep the public safe. It is a privilege to coordinate our people and our resources – on both campuses – to help them make these personal arrangements, which are vital to peace of mind and family security. What better way to say thank you?”

As the Delaware affiliate, the Delaware campus hopes to coordinate a document-preparation event once a semester and will move the events around to the First State’s three counties. Since the law campus is based in Wilmington the first will be held on the New Castle County campus, but subsequent events will likely be held in community centers or firehouses in Kent and Sussex counties.

Widener Law is grateful to Wilmington attorneys Valerie M. DeFontes, Esq. of the Wilmington law offices of Bayard Marin, Scott D. Goodwin, Esq. of Morris, Nichols, and Arsht & Tunnell LLP and Neil Derman, Esq. of Wilmington Trust for their work on the planning committee for the Delaware event.

In Harrisburg, third-year law students Hillary Prutzman and James Buck have been planning for the event with help from Wills for Heroes regional director Lisa Sherman and David Trevaskis of the pro bono arm of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Prutzman said a number of attorneys from the Harrisburg firm of McNees Wallace and Nurick LLC are volunteering their legal services to help make the day a success.

The Harrisburg function will also include a law enforcement presence and table display that will allow parents to complete information cards on their young children, including the opportunity to have youngsters fingerprinted.

“This way the parents have all the information right there, to give to police in case the unthinkable happens,” Prutzman said.

The document-preparation services are recommended only for first responders whose estates are valued at $750,000 or less. The estate threshold is calculated by adding the client’s cash, personal property, stock, bonds, real estate (equity only), savings, life insurance, inheritances received and retirement assets.

Those with spouses or children who have special care needs should make their situations clear when seeking appointments, so a law school representative may determine whether those needs will require legal work beyond what is available through the program.

Widener is currently seeking additional volunteer attorneys to help staff the April 17 events. Training will be provided that morning and continuing legal education credits will be available to those who help.

To volunteer on the Delaware campus, contact Del Pino at 302.477.2016 or email dpdelpino@mail.widener.edu. To volunteer on the Harrisburg campus, see www.wills.for.heroes.org, www.pabar.org/public/yld, or contact Prutzman at hprutzman@gmail.com.

Emergency service workers who want to take advantage of the service must schedule an appointment to attend the event. There appointments are still being taken for the Delaware campus event. To make one, call 302.477.2016 or send an email to Del Pino at dpdelpino@mail.widener.edu.

Appointments will last about an hour.