No. As explained below, there are many types of volunteer opportunities with the Wills for Heroes program the vast majority of which require no estate planning experience at all. Even attorneys interested in preparing estate plans for first responders can easily do so with no prior experience using the document assembly software that we utilize.
Wills for Heroes is a non-profit program that began in Columbia, SC after September 11, 2001, and is designed to assist emergency personnel in preparing basic estate planning documents to protect themselves and their families. The program launched in Wisconsin in the Fall of 2009. There are also Wills for Heroes programs in many other states.
Yes. This program is sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin, so when you volunteer in one of our clinics you are covered for the professional services that you provide in the clinic through the professional liability insurance that that the State Bar has in place for its volunteers. There is no additional cost to you for this benefit.
For Wills for Heroes purposes, a basic estate plan includes a will, living will, health care power of attorney and financial power of attorney. Volunteers also provide copies of an Authorization for Final Disposition and a Separate Writing that attendees can complete at home.
Wills for Heroes is available to all Wisconsin sworn (paid or volunteer) first responders whose net worth does not exceed the program limit. First responders include police officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and the spouses or domestic partners of such personnel. A first responder and his/her spouse (or domestic partner) must have an individual net worth of $2,000,000 or less. Dispatchers, retirees and non-sworn employees of first responder departments are not eligible.
To enable us to offer these estate planning documents to Wisconsin law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians efficiently and at no cost, the estate planning documents prepared by the Wills for Heroes program do not cover many issues for persons with large or complicated estates, beneficiaries with special needs, or beneficiaries who are unable to handle their finances. The Wills for Heroes program is also not appropriate for individuals who want to set up or require sophisticated trusts.
The first responder’s estate (for Wills for Heroes purposes) consists of his/her cash, personal property, stocks and bonds, real estate (equity only), savings, life insurance and retirement assets (such as a 401(k) or an IRA). If the first responder has a large (greater than $2,000,000 per person or $4,000,000 per couple) or complicated estate or desires complex trust arrangements, this program is not available to him/her.
Wills for Heroes does not handle the following areas/issues: 1) beneficiary designations on any assets; 2) estate, trust or probate administration and/or the avoidance of probate; 3) estate, gift, income and/or generation skipping transfer tax issues; 4) all trusts (other than a trust created under the first responder’s will), including living (revocable) trusts, irrevocable trusts, special needs trusts and charitable trusts; 5) marital property issues; 6) citizenship/domicile of the first responder and/or spouse or partner (including estate planning issues); 7) business ownership and/or family business holdings; 8) assets held outside the United States of America and/or asset protection; 9) guardianships; and 10) any other issues which are deemed by any Wills for Heroes volunteer for any reason to be beyond the scope of the program, including but not limited to any issue that will require significantly more time and expertise than can be provided by the Wills for Heroes summary services.
Wills for Heroes needs volunteer attorneys, notaries and witnesses throughout the State of Wisconsin.
Wills for Heroes has two roles for volunteer attorneys. If you specialize in the area of estate planning, you can volunteer as a clinic estate planning specialist. As the clinic estate planning specialist, you will be the “expert” that other volunteers and first responders go to with estate planning questions. You will also be responsible for overseeing the operations of the clinic on the day of the clinic. Each clinic will have an estate planning specialist.
Attorneys are also needed to meet with first responders on an individual basis, review the estate planning questionnaires completed by them and generate their estate planning documents with the use of a laptop and HotDocs, a document assembly program. No estate planning experience is required for general attorney volunteers.
Notaries are always needed to notarize the signatures of first responders when they execute their estate plans.
Wills for Heroes also needs volunteers to witness the signatures of first responders when they execute their estate plans.
Attorneys must attend an introductory training before serving as a volunteer attorney at a clinic. The training is now available as an On Demand program from the State Bar. The training covers estate planning basics, how the clinics operate and introduces the HotDocs Player program that we use for document assembly. If you are an attorney who is already a member of the Wills for Heroes e-list, log in to myStateBar and you should see the Wills for Heroes On Demand training listed within your MyMedia. Attorneys who are not members of the Wills for Heroes e-list need to first join the e-list to access the training (log into myStateBar and request that to be added to the e-list via the MyMemberships section of MyStateBar). If you have any problems accessing the training, please contact us.
Volunteer notaries and witnesses do not require any training prior to arrival at the clinic. Upon arrival at the clinic, notaries and witnesses should check-in with the estate planning specialist for information regarding their duties.
Clinics are scheduled at the request of law enforcement, fire, paramedic or emergency medical technician departments.
Wills for Heroes clinics are generally held on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please consult the Clinic Schedule for a list of upcoming clinics. When you volunteer, you can volunteer for the entire day or you can volunteer for the morning shift (8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.) or the afternoon shift (12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.).
Wills for Heroes clinics are held at police stations, fire departments and similar venues throughout the state.
Prior to arriving at the clinic, first responders must schedule a clinic appointment and complete the following forms.
Each clinic will have a site coordinator. The site coordinator will be a representative of the police, fire, paramedic or emergency medical technician department. Upon arrival for his/her clinic appointment, the first responder will check-in with the site coordinator and watch a brief recorded presentation that will give the first responder an overview of the estate planning process. Following the presentation, there will be an opportunity for the first responder to ask the estate planning specialist any questions he/she may have. The first responder will then sit with an attorney to review his/her completed estate planning questionnaire and discuss his/her estate plan in a confidential manner. A volunteer will enter the questionnaire information into a computer and generate the appropriate estate planning documents. The attorney will then review the documents with the first responder to ensure that he/she fully understands them. After the documents are explained and any corrections made, the documents will be executed and notarized onsite with the assistance of the notaries and witnesses. The goal is to complete the entire process in one meeting.
Volunteer attorneys will enter the information contained in the first responder’s estate planning questionnaire into the computer via HotDocs, a document assembly program. HotDocs will then generate the appropriate documents with the relevant fields populated with the information provided in the questionnaire. The volunteer attorney will then print the documents and review them with the first responder to make sure he/she understands them.
When a first responder arrives for his/her appointment, he/she will watch a recorded estate planning overview presentation and have an opportunity to ask any questions he/she may have. This will last for approximately one hour.
Following the presentation, the first responder will meet with the attorney preparing his/her estate plan. The meeting with the attorney, including preparation of the first responder’s estate planning documents, and execution of the first responder’s estate plan is scheduled to last one hour.
Typically, Wills for Heroes, in conjunction with the group hosting the clinic, will provide all supplies, including laptops, printers, software, paper, pens, tables and chairs. This is the case for clinics that are organized through one of the hubs that use laptops and printers that have been donated to the project. If you happen to be in an area not served by one of the hubs, then you can still organize clinics using the Clinic in a Box resources provided below.
That's why we created the Wills for Heroes in a Box resource below. We hope that this will be particularly helpful to lawyers working in more rural areas far from existing equipment hubs in Green Bay, Madison, and Milwaukee. It provides the basic tools that you will need to set up a clinic in your area using your own laptops and printers. You will need to have some basic skills in downloading and installing software. Instructions are provided to help guide you through the process. Then, you can recruit local volunteers and schedule your own clinic event for eligible first responders. Just keep us posted about what you are doing, when your clinic will be held and who is volunteering.
If you would like to volunteer at a clinic, you can find our list up upcoming clinics here. We look forward to working with you.
If you want to organize and hold a Wisconsin Wills for Heroes clinic in your area with your own computer equipment, we can help you do that. To help volunteers get started in more rural areas, we've assembled a "clinic in a box" that contains the forms and instructions that you need to get started.
Wills for Heroes in Wisconsin is sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin with the support of Foley & Lardner LLP, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, LexisNexis, HotDocs, the State Bar Young Lawyers Division and the national Wills for Heroes Foundation.