Upcoming “Wills for Heroes” event to be held in memory of fallen New Castle County police officer
Public Relations - Published: January 31, 2012
WillsForHeroesLtSzcerbaPromoWidener Law has announced its next Wills For Heroes estate-planning event will be held Saturday, Feb. 4 in Delaware City, which will mark the first time the program visits southern New Castle County, Del. The event will be presented in memory of Lt. Joseph Szczerba, the New Castle County police officer who died Sept. 16, 2011 after being stabbed by a fleeing suspect while in the line of duty.

The event will be held at the Delaware City Fire Co., 815 Fifth St., Delaware City with appointments beginning at 11 a.m. It is dedicated to the memory of Szczerba, 44, who had served the citizens of New Castle County for 18 years. He died while in possession of a will created at a Wills For Heroes event on the Widener Law campus last year. His widow, Kathy Szczerba, will attend the event on Feb. 4.

Wills for Heroes is a service that provides wills, advance health care directives and financial powers of attorneys at no cost to first responders, such as police, firefighters, correction and probation officers, and paramedics – along with their spouses or partners. Documents are prepared during 90-minute appointments and first responders leave with all legal documents notarized and in effect.

Kathy Szczerba recently wrote a statement for first responders in Delaware, urging them to take advantage of this valuable free service provided through Widener Law.

“Even if you believe you knew your spouse well, there are so many decisions to be made at the time of his or her passing that it is easy to get weighed down and forget the little details,” she wrote. “I can tell you from personal experience that it was a tremendous relief to know that my household and the items we collected as we built our life together were secure. We talked about it and we participated in the Wills for Heroes program. At the worst moment of my life, at least I had the will.”

Kathy Szczerba’s statement is reprinted in its entirety below.

Those who wish to obtain legal documents through the Feb. 4 event must contact the law school in advance at 302.477.2016 or email wills4heroesde@mail.widener.edu to secure an appointment. UPDATE: Due to significant interest in this event, Widener Law now has a waiting list for appointments. Please call or email to inquire about being placed on that list.

Widener Law assumed the role as Delaware’s affiliate for the Wills For Heroes Foundation in April 2010. States cannot provide the service without a sponsoring affiliate, so Widener’s initiative brought the service to the First State and ensured it would have enthusiastic, ongoing support. Widener Law is the only law school in the nation to serve as a state affiliate for Wills For Heroes. Most of the 23 states with programs are affiliated through law firms.

“These document-preparation events are one of the most rewarding things the law school community does,” said alumnus Damiano Del Pino ’11, who brought the program to Widener Law while he was a student. “There is a tremendous sense of satisfaction in helping these local heroes – many of whom have young families – get their affairs in order. You see the relief in their eyes when they know this significant personal responsibility has been met.”

Attorneys who volunteer to prepare documents at the event need not have special expertise with estate planning. A two-hour training for the volunteers will begin at 9 a.m. and two continuing legal education credits are available to attorneys from Delaware or Pennsylvania who participate. Attorneys who want to volunteer are asked to call 302.477.2016 or email wills4heroesde@mail.widener.edu.

Kathy Szczerba's statement:

Please take a moment out of your busy schedule to consider participating in the Wills for Heroes program offered by Widener University School of Law. It is an especially valuable opportunity.

When a loved one dies, it is a very emotional time. It is especially overwhelming when that loved one is your spouse. Even if you believe you knew your spouse well, there are so many decisions to be made at the time of his or her passing that it is easy to get weighed down and forget the little details. I can tell you from personal experience that it was a tremendous relief to know that my household and the items we collected as we built our life together were secure. We talked about it and we participated in the Wills for Heroes program. At the worst moment of my life, at least I had the will.

This is a difficult conversation to have, but an important one. So many people avoid it because they somehow believe that if they talk about it, then it will happen. Deep down we all know that death is a part of life. And deep down in your heart, there is that wish that your loved ones will always be taken care of no matter what. You don’t want your loved ones to struggle any more then they have to. A will secures the life you’ve built and ensures that your loved ones know what you wanted for yourself as you part this world, and it secures the life you leave behind. As a couple and perhaps as a family, you have spent a lifetime collecting items and building memories. The last thing you want your spouse or family to worry about at such a difficult time is whether those cherished items will be in jeopardy now that you are gone.

Unfortunately, in your line of work, it is an especially important conversation to have. Police Officers and Firefighters head into danger while other people are going in the opposite direction. You’ve made a selfless commitment by choosing to do this job. None of us can truly know what each day may bring, but having a plan for each possibility is always a good idea.

Let your spouse or family know how much you truly care by having an open and honest conversation about your wishes and how you can secure the life you’ve built. Make those decisions now so that the people you may have to leave behind don’t have to worry about that at what could very well be the worst moment of their lives too. Take this opportunity presented to you and participate in the Wills for Heroes program sponsored by Widener University School of Law on Saturday, February 4, 2012.