BYU Law wills for heroes

An attorney helps a first responder set up their basic estate planning documents as a part of the BYU Law School's Wills for Heroes event.

After a week-long effort from the J. Rueben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University and the Utah State Bar Association, more than 130 first responders around the state received help to complete their basic estate planning documents.

BYU law students, faculty and alumni offered their time for free to help finalize these documents. After the documents were finished, they were notarized on Friday.

BYU Law Dean of External Relations Mike Middleton characterized the work as a real victory given the current state of the pandemic. This was the school’s second year hosting a Wills for Heroes event, and they were able to help more people than last year, virtually.

Middleton added it is empowering to see multiple groups collaborate with a singular goal in mind. Zions Bank assisted as a notary while the company Hotdocs helped with the software that made the remote document-writing possible.

“Zions Bank, they have been a tremendous partner,” Middleton said. “We were able to go statewide and help people from Ephraim to Logan where they just go into the local branch and get everything notarized. it’s been an interesting challenge to make this work in a COVID world but these attorneys have been wonderful.”

Those attorneys, whether current faculty or BYU alumni, jumped into zoom calls with first responders or found some other form of socially distanced communication to work with first responders that were a part of the program.

Those attorneys produced individualized documents that were printed and notarized at a Zions Bank branch.

“There couldn’t be a better group of people for us to help and remember as we remember 9/11,” Middleton said. “Those heroes so powerfully and visibly marked the path that these other, more local heroes take on a daily basis.”

Attorneys helped walk these first responders through the process and in doing so, they were able to finalize the basic needs.

This was by no means an extensive estate planning, but the basics can be a big thing for first responders.

“When you need those, it is too late to start drafting the document or going through the yellow pages to look for an attorney,” Middleton said. “Just to have that baseline reassurance that in just a few hours of consultation time and then notarization, it’s ready and it’s done (and) you can put it away and forget it knowing if, heaven forbid, something happened in your line of work, those closest to you are protected.”

Middleton said the BYU Law School is grateful to have the ability to help these individuals, adding that tens of thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of dollars in legal services were donated.

Middleton also spoke to how crucial it is for everyone, not just first responders, to get their basic estate planning documents in place.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the flow of life and just think, ‘I’ll worry about dying someday,’ “ Middleton said. “It is critical that people have an estate plan in place, and I think it’s one of the most important things anyone can do for themselves, for their family and their loved ones.”

This also is not the only way that the BYU Law School helps serves the surrounding communities.

As one of the nation’s leading law schools, it stresses leadership and service while thanking its alumni and other Utah-licensed attorneys for the donation of their time and services.

“This is just one of a number of ways that we feel the leadership and expertise of BYU Law and the legal community can reach out and make life better,” Middleton said. “We hope it’s a continual and perpetual thing that’s part of our DNA, to lift, to lead and to help.”