Local organization provides free wills for first responders

Published: Feb. 10, 2019 at 2:11 PM EST
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A special event was held on Saturday to provide free wills for firefighters, police and all other first responders.

The Pro Bono Committee of the Cincinnati Paralegal Association held “Remember: Wills For First Responders," an event where volunteer lawyers and paralegals came together to provide wills, living wills, and health care proxies to first responders and their spouses free of charge.

“Most importantly, we provide peace of mind to these heroes should the unthinkable occur,” according to a post on the organization’s website.

According to the International Public Safety Association, 125 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty, and 113 Fire/EMS officials died in the line of duty during 2017 in the United States.

“Wills for Heroes” was started by a Cincinnati paralegal shortly after 9/11. “I wanted to start this up so their families would be taken care of,” said Hamilton County Probate Court Judge Ralph Winkler.

A few years ago, Judge Winkler re-energized the program after overseeing several high profile cases in his courtroom where first responders did not leave behind a will for their families, Judge Winkler told FOX19NOW’s Deborah Linz.

“It’s going to be a lot more expensive for the family, it adds to the tragedy if you don’t have a will,” Judge Winkler said.

Over 90 wills were drafted for free on Saturday.

“We’ve had some loss here in Cincinnati, and you know with my good friend Darryl Gordon and Oscar Armstrong through the years. You start really thinking about things like that,” said David Johnson, a firefighter in the area.

Johnson has been a firefighter for 28 years. He and his wife were among the dozens of families that attended this event.

A will can cost anywhere from $300 to more than $1000.

That’s why 40 local attorneys and paralegals volunteered their time to draft the wills for free.

“We’ve been fortunate to serve as long as I’ve served but who is going to take care of my wife and kids when I am not here to serve them?” Johnson said.

Judge Winkler says this is the best part of his job. “For me it’s like waking up on Christmas morning because you are going to see a lot of happy people getting something important done.”

This was the first of four “Wills for Responders” events this year. The next one will take place in April, but an exact date has not been set.

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