We cannot protect them, a fact that haunted our city again last week when Police Officer John Pawlowski became Philadelphia's eighth officer to die from injuries received on the job in less than three years. But we can help protect their families.

From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 21, 2009, Ballard Spahr attorneys will sit down with about 60 recent Philadelphia Police recruits and prepare estate-planning documents for them, free of charge. The event at the Philadelphia Police Academy, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association and coordinated by Ballard, will launch the Wills for Heroes program in the state.

Wills for Heroes, a national nonprofit that organizes free estate-planning clinics for first responders, was created after hundreds of emergency responders died in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The organization estimates that 80 to 90 percent of first responders lack wills. Since its creation, volunteer attorneys have readied more than 10,000 estate-planning documents, including living wills, for first responders nationwide. Ballard attorneys helped prepare more than 350 wills last year in events from Los Angeles to the Statue of Liberty.

"People who face real physical danger every day on the job, as our first responders do, have a greater need than most to have a sound financial plan in place with all the appropriate documentation," said Ballard Spahr Chairman Arthur Makadon. "It really is a privilege for our lawyers to provide some peace of mind to these men and women and their families. We are honored to have played a role in expanding Wills for Heroes to Pennsylvania."

"We ask emergency responders to complete an estate-planning questionnaire before they show up for the Wills for Heroes event," said Daniel J.T. McKenna, a Ballard lawyer in charge of implementing Wills for Heroes in Pennsylvania. "At the event, a volunteer attorney uses the questionnaire to prepare documents. The wills are signed and notarized on the spot. The whole process takes about an hour."  

Wills for Heroes events are being scheduled throughout Pennsylvania. Most recently, on February 7, 2009, Ballard Spahr staged an event in Edison, N.J., for about 40 first responders from the Edison First Aid Squad and surrounding communities. The New Jersey State Bar Association sponsored the event.

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