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Volunteer Attorneys Offer Free Wills To Vets

Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media
Bob Cannon with the Marine Corps League was among the dozens to attend the Veterans Law Institute Dedication Ceremony in 2012.

Tampa Bay veterans, 60 and older, and their spouses can get free legal help drafting a will and related documents like advanced medical directives.

The Stetson University College of Law has joined with volunteer attorneys from the area to offer the "Wills for Warriors" program for a fourth year.

Veterans must meet some income guidelines and can’t own property outside Florida because it makes the will too complicated.

“Standard middle class folks, one house, a couple cars, a couple hundred thousand in assets, they’ll most likely qualify for the program,” said Brandon Robinson, a Stetson Elder Consumer Protection Program fellow.

He said Stetson Law students schedule meetings with the veterans to review documents and gather information. The law student then drafts the will, which is reviewed by a volunteer attorney.

Then on Feb. 23, 2016, signing day, the veterans and spouses meet with their assigned attorney and law student to finalize the documents.

“It’s surprising the number of people who don’t have these very basic planning documents,” Robinson said. “Generally speaking, it’s because it’s a topic that most people don’t want to talk about.”

The Community Law program, funded by the St. Petersburg Bar Foundation, is a partner on the Wills for Warriors project, which is open to veterans from all eras.

“This program does give them an opportunity, even if they decide they don’t want to do their documents, to sit down with some folks who are fairly knowledgeable in this area and get all of the info they need to make an informed decision about how they go about planning their estate and what they want to have happen to them later in life,” Robinson said.

To participate, veterans or their spouse can call into the Center for Excellence in Elder Law at 727-562-7393. The deadline to sign up is February 5, 2016.

EDITORS NOTE: The Wills for Warriors program reservations are full, names are being put on a waiting list as of 10 a.m. Jan. 26, 2016.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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