SCSJ in the community: Edgecomb County wills clinic

A basic tenet of SCSJ’s mission is that all people deserve access to quality legal services, regardless of race or socio-economic status. In furtherance of this ideal, SCSJ recently coordinated a clinic to draft wills and end-of-life planning documents for nineteen residents of rural Edgecombe County. With the help of nine volunteer law students from UNC School of Law and North Carolina Central University School of Law supervised by private attorney Paul Zucchino of the Brady Law Firm in Greensboro, economically disadvantaged clients were able to prepare documents that would protect their assets and their wishes in the event of serious health problems or death. Clients received 16 wills, 17 healthcare powers of attorney, 12 durable powers of attorney, and 12 living wills, all free of charge.

Students get last-minute advice from SCSJ's Chris Heaney
Students get last-minute advice from SCSJ’s Chris Heaney

“Our clients have worked hard to provide for themselves and their families, and wills make sure that the fruits of their labor are protected and passed down according to the clients’ wishes,” said Christopher Heaney, an attorney with SCSJ. “We also provide documents that guide doctors in treating our clients as they wish to be treated in the event of a serious medical condition, as well as a durable power of attorney that lets family members or trusted friends act on behalf of our clients.”
Students drafting wills
Students drafting wills

In Edgecombe County, poverty limits many people’s access to vital legal services. SCSJ and the Edgecombe County Cooperative Extension Service believe that limited funds should not stop people from using basic legal services that protect assets and people’s autonomy. SCSJ also hopes to use such community outreach to train future generations of civil rights lawyers so that attorneys are prepared to work with economically disadvantaged clients in rural settings, who are frequently underserved.