Nobody wants to think about the legal consequences that can result from severe illness or death, but the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many people to seek legal advice on issues related to wills and estate planning. Two programs that tackle some of these issues are part of the American Bar Association’s annual Pro Bono Week Celebration, Oct. 25-31. This year’s theme is “Rising to Meet the Challenge: Pro Bono Responds to COVID-19.”
The National Celebration of Pro Bono was launched in 2009 in response to the increasing need for pro bono services during harsh economic times. Every October, legal organizations across the country participate in events to draw attention to the need for pro bono participation and to say thanks to those who give their time year-round. The celebration has grown from 600 events in 2009 to more than 10,000.
From 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Oct. 29, Nevada Legal Services will sponsor an Estate Planning Telephonic Law Fair, held in both virtual format and by phone. Each person who registers will get 15-20 minutes with an attorney to discuss their estate planning questions, according to Heather Barrow, pro bono manager for Nevada Legal Services. “We have previously assigned the clients call times, so they either log on to the Zoom call and will then go out into a breakout room with an attorney, or the attorney will call the client at the scheduled call time.”
At 10:30-11:30 a.m. PT on Oct. 30, the Los Angeles Law Library will sponsor a Zoom event, How to Complete and File a Probate Petition. Probate is the process for transferring the assets of someone who has died to the people legally entitled to receive the assets. In the class, attendees will learn which types of assets and estates require probate, how to fill out the petition and file it with the court, and how to serve the petition on interested parties.
The class, which will be taught by California lawyer Crystal Hayes-Hill of My Legal Team, Inc., focuses on the mechanics of preparing the initial petition form to start probate proceedings, said Ryan Metheny, managing librarian of legal education at the Los Angeles Law Library. He said all the library’s classes, workshops and clinics draw about 8,000 attendees annually, pre-COVID-19. “The library is seeing equal or slightly greater attendance in the online environment,” he added.
This year marks the library’s ninth Pro Bono Week celebration, said Janine Liebert, managing librarian of public interest programs, who coordinates Pro Bono Week efforts. She said the most popular pro bono program (during Pro Bono Week and year-round) is Lawyers in the Library, which provides free 20-minute consultations with volunteer lawyers. Also popular are classes on landlord-tenant law, drafting/responding to civil complaints, how-to classes on writs, filing a civil rights lawsuit, appearing before a judge (taught by two Los Angeles Superior Court judges), finding a lawyer, unbundled legal services and the appellate court process.
“Classes focused on criminal law, child custody and support, landlord-tenant and subsidized housing/Section 8 are always in high demand too,” Liebert said.