Pro bono estate planning pilot program sees overwhelming demand

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COLUMBIA - The first year of the Pro Bono Estate Planning Program received ten times more interest than it was prepared for. 

The program, happening this week, is thanks to a combined effort from the MU School of Law and the Family Impact Center. Ten MU law students helped with the program.

Now, program coordinator Jennifer Riedy Clark realizes the continued need for these services in the community. 

"We're hopeful we can offer this program again in the spring," Clark said.  

She said she received over a hundred phone calls from interested residents, but could only book ten appointments. 

The documents prepared through the program include simple wills, durable powers of attorney for both health care and finances and living wills or health care directives. These documents have important purposes both before and after death. 

Jenna Homeyer, one of the MU law students volunteering this week, said a lawyer can help talk a client through various decisions, including designating someone to handle affairs or take over custody of young children. 

Homeyer said she is interested in estate planning and trust law, and she is excited for the opportunity to practice it this week.   

"I wanted to use my law degree to give back to the community," Homeyer said. 

Tom Luckenbill, a Columbia area attorney who specializes in estate planning, said he believes many people put off preparing estate documents due to cost. 

“Perhaps a lot of people don’t really quite visualize what an estate plan is,” Luckenbill said. "One should consider the results in their particular circumstances of a will or a living trust.”

The process of estate planning is essentially just putting circumstantial wishes into writing, but Luckenbill added it's important to have the documents in place.