Inside Track: Wills for Heroes: This holiday season, help serve those who serve us:

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  • Wills for Heroes: This holiday season, help serve those who serve us

    Dec. 7, 2011 – Although the economy is showing signs of recovery, many people – including first responders – cannot stretch their budgets to include essential legal documents. Despite the inherent risk in a first responder’s job, says Kristine Havlik, it is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of first responders lack even a simple will. That’s where you come in.
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    Kristine HavlikBy com khavlik foley Kristine L. Havlik, Foley & Lardner LLP

    Dec. 7, 2011 – The economy is showing signs of improvement, but for many, meeting their day-to-day needs continues to be a struggle. For this reason, it is more important than ever for attorneys and law firms to embrace social responsibility and pro bono service.

    As an attorney, I’ve been fortunate to see the benefits of pro bono service in practice. In 2009, I began working as a founding volunteer, together with the State Bar of Wisconsin’s pro bono program and my firm, Foley & Lardner LLP, to bring the Wills for Heroes program to our state.

    Wisconsin’s Wills for Heroes program

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    Lawyers and paralegals volunteered to prepare wills and other estate planning documents at a clinic for the Town of Greenville fire rescue volunteers. Greenville is located west of Appleton, serving a population of more than 9,400.

    First row: Wendy Rusch and Anthony Hilsabeck; Second row: Kris Havlik, David Clark, Will Hughes, Eric Guerin, and Robert Heinrich; Top row: Renate Gray, Sharon Minta, and Jennifer Sommers.

    In an effort to “serve those who serve us,” the national Wills for Heroes program was created after Sept. 11, 2001, to offer free assistance to qualifying firefighters, police officers, and other emergency personnel and their families to prepare basic estate planning documents, including wills, living wills, and powers of attorney. And the need is great. Despite the risk inherent in a first responder’s job, it is estimated that a staggering 80 to 90 percent of first responders lack even a simple will.

    Since starting the program in Wisconsin in 2009, Wisconsin Wills for Heroes has prepared more than 1,000 personalized estate plans for Wisconsin first responders, and its volunteers will have the opportunity to help even more Wisconsin heroes at upcoming clinics scheduled for December and beyond in Milwaukee, New Berlin, Okauchee, Sturgeon Bay and elsewhere. Wills for Heroes hubs are currently located in Dane, Milwaukee, and Brown counties and serve first responders in those and surrounding counties.

    My firm, as many do, emphasizes community service and encourages participation in projects such as Wills for Heroes. I am privileged to be able to provide pro bono legal service to the emergency personnel who serve all of us, and that in itself is reward enough.

    Make a lasting difference, become a volunteer

    As we enter the season of giving, consider giving a gift of your time as a volunteer for Wills for Heroes. The program is always looking for volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and witnesses to play a role in its invaluable clinics. While positive economic indicators are signaling that the New Year may be a more prosperous one, by volunteering your time for Wills for Heroes you can make a lasting difference in the lives of Wisconsin first responders in the upcoming year and beyond.

    About the author

    Kristine L. Havlik, University of Virginia 1999, is senior counsel of Foley & Lardner LLP, Milwaukee. She is a founding volunteer and major advocate of the State Bar’s Wills for Heroes program.