Local residents take advantage of free legal services

May 23, 2012 – Many say it is never too early to create a will. More than 50 percent of Americans die without this legal documentation, according to KeishonThomas, extension housing specialist at Fort Valley State University. In an effort to assists with this problem, the university’s Cooperative Extension Service is offering a series of free wills clinics.

The most recent clinic was May 8 at the New Pilgrim Baptist Church, where attorneys helped individuals by helping them develop wills to protect family and siblings.

“I think everybody should have a will if they are married, have kids or have any desire to have their assets distributed the way they want to,” said John Donsbach, an attorney who provided assistance at the clinic.

Donsbach, who practices law in Martinez, Ga., said a will is vital if individuals want their family members or children protected, and if they want their assets passed down to particular people. He added that a will is needed if individuals want to name guardians for minor children.

There are a number of things can occur if an individual fails to draft a will. Among them are wrong people inheriting assets, mismanagement of funds or assets and fighting over property. Also, in the case of minor children, an individual will have to go to court to secure a guardian so they can handle the financial and personal affairs for them. “Those are just a few things that could go wrong,” Donsbach said.

Barbara Davis of Macon is dealing with the legal aftermath of her recent brother-in-law’s death. “After his death we discovered that he did not have a will, and we had to go into probate for certain reasons because there was no will,” she said. “Even though he had said who he wanted to leave things to, it didn’t materialize that way and we’re still in probate for that.”

Davis said she would recommend the workshop to an individual because it provides an opportunity to get a will done free of charge. “This is the best opportunity that has come around in a long time. This is over $1,000 of services that Fort Valley State’s Cooperative Extension service is rendering for free, and you couldn’t get that anywhere.”

Betty Walton, of Fort Valley, Ga., attended the workshop at the behest of one of her friends. Before attending the clinic, Walton did not have a will. “I have been thinking about it really hard, the time just came and it’s just time to do it,” Walton said. She strongly recommends others to attend a clinic because “if they pass away without having a will, everything would go to the state, and that’s not good,” she said.

Thomas said this is the third clinic conducted 26 advance directives, 22 wills and 24 power of attorney documents have been completes thus far. “The objective of the free wills clinic is to make sure people walk away with a fully executed will,” Thomas said. “We want to make sure people protect their assets and understand that if you do not do a will, the state of Georgia will do one for you.” Thomas also said that a will can be a big asset because during a time of grief, it can specify what needs to be done and that can make things a lot easier for the family.

As an 1890 land-grant institution Fort Valley State receives federal funding to provide services, free or at a minimal cost, to Georgians through its Cooperative Extension Program. It reaches out to youths, seniors, farmers, animal producers and the public.

To find out about the next clinic or for more information, contact Maureen Lucas at (478) 825-6580 or maureenl@fvsu.edu.

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Contact:
FVSU Agricultural Communications Department
(478) 825-6345