Do You Have The Will?

The June 2007 deaths of nine brother firefighters in Charleston, SC, once again reminds us of the dangers of the job we have. Each of us copes differently with the knowledge of this risk day in and day out. Death on the one hand is a sobering reality that...


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What Do I Need to Do?

Here's what you need to do: See a lawyer. A simple will should range in price from $100 to $250. Some firefighters have prepaid legal insurance through their employer as a benefit that will pay for a simple will. More complex estate planning can raise the cost, depending on one's unique situation, but that can be determined only after discussing the facts with your attorney.

Stay away from do-it-yourself will kits. Wills may not be rocket science, but there certainly is a science (a body of professional knowledge) that warrants the help of a professional. Wills are but one component of estate planning and without the advice of an attorney your wishes may be inadvertently defeated by a will kit that does not take into account issues such as joint ownership of property, ex-spouses, stepchildren and related matters.

Recognizing the need for emergency responders to have wills, Attorney Anthony C. Hayes, of Columbia, SC, created a program called Wills for Heroes. Started shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Hayes wanted to ensure that all first responders have the opportunity to obtain wills and simple estate planning. The Wills for Heroes program offers free simple estate planning to firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and other first responders. Additional details about the program are available at www.willsforheroes.org. To date, eight states have adopted the program and two more are in the process.

Discussing the recent tragedy in his home state, Hayes said, "I have seen first hand the impact of firefighter deaths upon those left behind in Charlestown, and it is devastating." To America's firefighters, he says "Please remember — it's not about you. It's about your spouse and children."

I could not agree more.