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On May 2, 2015, the Hazlet Police Department will be participating in an event called “Wills for Heroes,” which will be held at the Cullen Center in Hazlet. The Wills for Heroes website states that their programs provide essential legal documents free of charge to our nation’s first responders, including wills, living wills, and powers of attorney. The 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit Wills for Heroes Foundation supports these Wills programs, giving back to the community and “protecting those who protect us.”
This program was discovered by Hazlet Detective Division Commander Lt. Ted Wittke, Kr. while seeking information on a will for himself and his wife. He explained, I also realized after talking with coworkers that many of them either have no will in place or haven’t even considered getting one. I thought Wills for Heroes would be a great way to be able to offer a will to all of my coworkers at no charge to them. I think a will is something that some people have a hard time coming to grips with but getting one prepared and donated to you for your public service is something you should take advantage of. If not for you then for your family.”
As Lt. Wittke took the steps to coordinate this event, he met Mr. Joshua Cheslow, who is an attorney in Manalapan. He is a member of the Executive Board of the New Jersey State Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (YLD). The YLD, through its associations with the American Bar Association, sponsors attorney participation in the New Jersey chapter of the program. “I am responsible for organization, outreach, and implementation of the program,” said Mr. Cheslow. he has been the coordinator of the Wills for Heroes program since May, 2013. Organizing the event includes preparing the laptops and site preparation, creating a webpage for promotion to the first responders, and obtaining attorney volunteers. Prior to the event date, first responders must fill out an estate planning questionnaire which is used as a financial organizational tool and a screening tool. First responders can also contact Mr. Cheslow, as there are specific guidelines, which determine eligibility.
“We encourage first responders who are married to attend with their spouse or partner, as they are also entitled to a free estate plan and generally estate planning for married couples is done together,” said Mr. Cheslow. He noted that a Wills for Heroes estate plan encompasses a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney, and a Living Will/Advanced Directive for Health Care. This is the typical “simple” estate plan in the state of New Jersey, and in most states in the United States. On the day of the event, the first responder is assigned an attorney team of at least two attorneys. The draft estate planning documents are reviewed with the first responder participant to insure that each person understands and agrees to what they are executing. Once finalized, the documents are signed, witnessed and notarized in a formal signing ceremony. On average, it takes about an hour to complete the estate planning documents. The Wills for Heroes program does not keep a copy of the participant’s documents or information.
“I got involved to give back something important to the community of first responder – death is at their very doorstep on a regular basis, so that it makes sense they should have their wishes set forth in writing in the event of a tragedy. As a lawyer who practices in this area, what better way to give back than a program like this,” said Mr. Cheslow. He added that the YTD is proud to have a record of strong volunteer turnout. Due to volunteers, they can handle approximately 50 individuals (25 couples) during the course of a six-hour day. “The event is not all business. This is a chance for the community to come together, and we often have young children at the events.”
Lt. Wittke shared, “I think it’s amazing that Mr. Cheslow and other attorneys are willing to participate and provide this service pro bono, and it’s a great testament to them. At the May 2 event, Mr. Cheslow and his fellow attorneys will be set up all day to take appointments from Hazlet Police Officers.”
Anyone interested in further information on eligibility or other event dates, can contact Mr. Joshua Cheslow at 732.972.1600. More details about this program can be found at http://www.willsforheroes.org.
STORY by SUSAN MURPHY