Mid-Shore Pro Bono launches Life Planning For All

Mid-Shore Pro Bono managing attorney, Meredith Lathbury Girard, left, meets with client Dalia Miguel Velasquez to discuss life planning documents in the MSPB Easton office.

EASTON — Mid-Shore Pro Bono, a non-profit organization on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that provides free access to legal services to low-income community members, has launched “Life Planning For All,” an initiative to assist local families with legal, financial and health care directives, at no charge.

“I was introduced to Mid-Shore Pro Bono when my mother needed help drafting her power of attorney and advance directive,” said Talbot County resident Cheryl Bowens. “I honestly didn’t really want to think about it, but knew my husband and I needed to do the same.”

“I called MSPB and after a quick phone survey, they got back to me within a couple days to schedule an appointment,” Bowens said. “The process was seamless and because of the great experience we had with the attorney we worked with, we recommended MSPB to our friends.”

“As with all of our services, this Life Planning initiative was created to respond to community needs,” said Sandy Brown, executive director of Mid-Shore Pro Bono. “With families facing new challenges, we feel this is a small step to providing families peace of mind.”

“Our goal is to educate people about the importance of taking action earlier in life to prepare life planning documents such as a will, advance directive and power of attorney,” said Meredith Lathbury Girard, managing attorney for Mid-Shore Pro Bono. “We want people to understand that it’s not about the money. It’s about leaving instructions that will empower your family to honor your wishes and decisions.”

Year-round, Mid-Shore Pro Bono provides volunteer attorneys to community members to draft and validate the following documents, free of charge:

Will. The purpose of a will is to distribute your assets after you pass. Your will allows you to decide what you want to go to whom, when, and how. If you do not have a will, state law will determine who inherits and handles your estate. A will can help your asset distributions avoid estate taxes, protect your family from creditors and spread out your distribution over time. Wills can also be used to name guardians for your minor children when both parents pass away.

Power of Attorney. The power of attorney names a person to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so for yourself. It gives authority to that person to make legal decisions about your property and finances. A power of attorney is often used when a principal becomes ill or disabled, or when they cannot be present to sign necessary legal documents for financial transactions.

Advance Directive. An advance directive guides choices for doctors and caregivers if you are terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life. This document helps loved ones make important decisions during a crisis to ensure your wishes regarding your health care are carried out when you are unable to make your wishes known.

Working with a Mid-Shore Pro Bono attorney on your life planning documents is an easy 4-step process:

  1. Visit midshoreprobono.org/contact-us/ to fill out an intake form or call the MSPB office at 410-690-8128.
  2. MSPB staff will follow up with you to discuss what documents are needed then you will be scheduled for an appointment with a volunteer attorney.
  3. Documents are filled out by MSPB, the client(s) sign the documents and then they are notarized by MSPB, for free.
  4. MSPB always recommends that clients file their will with the register of wills in their county for $5 to make sure their will is kept in a secure place

“I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with clients on their life planning documents,” Girard said. “I am helping them and their families in a concrete way. They are putting their intentions in writing. I see it as an expression of love.”

For more information on life planning and other Mid-Shore Pro Bono services, visit midshoreprobono.org/ or call an office in Easton 410-690-8128, Salisbury 410-829-0394 or Chestertown 443-298-9425.

The goal of Mid-Shore Pro Bono is to strengthen the communities of Maryland’s Eastern Shore by ensuring equal access to civil justice through connecting low-income individuals and families in need of civil legal help with volunteer attorneys and community resources. Based on this belief, we envision a community where all individuals should feel respected and empowered throughout the legal system.

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