The Woodlands Bar Association’s efforts to pass legislation protecting its pro bono wills program for first responders were featured in the Texas Bar Journal’s May 2013 edition.
Call to Duty
Giving a hand to someone in need is a way of life for many, including the members of the Woodlands Bar Association. After 9/11, a committee of Woodlands Bar Association board members began a community program to give back to the first responders in Montgomery County. “As lawyers, we strive to use our legal skills to help othersundefinedand what more worthy folks than firefighters, police officers, and first responders who put their lives on the line every day,” said Woodlands Bar Association President Angela Speight. Originally called Wills for Heroes (the name must be changed because it is trademarked), the program first assisted members of the Woodlands Fire Department with estate planning services such as wills, powers of attorney, and directives to physicians. About 100 attorneys participate annually in the program, either as drafters, volunteers, or notaries, and they have worked with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Montgomery County Hospital District, the Shenandoah Police Department, and the Montgomery County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office. The lawyers of the Woodlands Bar Association drafted more than 1,000 first responder estate planning documents before discovering what could be a problem with the state’s public official anti-bribery laws. With the assistance of Sen. Tommy Williams and State Rep. Steve Toth, James Stilwell, one of the program’s founding attorneys, penned an amendment to the existing statute that would allow the Woodlands Bar Association to continue its program. HB 758 and SB 148 are making their way through the legislative process.