Nearly 10,000 people age 65 and older live in poverty in Mecklenburg County. For this group, the cost of obtaining even simple estate planning documents can be prohibitive, putting them at risk of losing control of end-of-life decisions, such as care and the ability to easily pass their belongings on to family members.
During Legal Services of Southern Piedmont’s annual Wills on Wheels event this spring, low-income seniors met with volunteer attorneys from Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Culp Elliott & Carpenter and Mayer Brown to draft and execute simple wills and advance directive documents that outline their end-of-life wishes free of charge, granting them and their families stability that they could otherwise not afford.
Since 2005, pro bono attorneys, paralegals and other volunteers have partnered with LSSP through its Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners program to ensure that all seniors in our community maintain control over the final disposition of their assets and their future medical decisions by assisting them in completing simple wills and advance directives at no charge.
“It warms my heart to see professionals giving their time and expertise to seniors in their communities, and it is truly a blessing to be a part of the program and witness the interaction and the smiles of appreciation,” Deborah Hampton of Bank of America said.
Alberta Carter Bey was one of those seniors expressing her gratitude. Bey worked with Daniel Blackburn, of Mayer Brown, to execute her will and healthcare power of attorney. When her husband passed away last January, and she saw firsthand the importance of having plans in place.
“You need to have everything written down so your wishes can be respected,” Bey said. “It offers so much peace for the family.”
Antonio Claud and Deborah Adams felt the same way as they joined their mother, Betty Jean Hallman, 73, to see her complete her documents with Terry Irvin of Bank of America.
More than 30 volunteer attorneys and legal professionals participated in this year’s events, assisting both English and Spanish speakers and several local veterans.
Thanks to the continued support of volunteers, Wills on Wheels has been making critical legal services available for those in need to our community year after year, serving as a model that LSSP has replicated with other corporate and law firm partners and community organizations to serve more local seniors. This support has reinforced LSSP’s efforts to build a more just community for all people as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this fall.
“We as volunteers are proud to be a part of this tradition with Legal Services as the organization celebrates 50 years of service in the Charlotte area,” said Todd Stillerman, LSSP board president and Bank of America attorney. “When we join LSSP and partner with other law firms and corporate legal departments to provide end-of-life planning for those who need it, we give individuals and families control over their lives, as well as peace of mind. More broadly, this work builds stability in our community.”