Volunteer to help pandemic first responders with their legal issues

from State Bar of Michigan

Thousands of Michiganders are putting their lives on the line to keep the rest of us safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Help is needed to support them in a way that only Michigan lawyers can.

At this uncertain time, medical powers of attorney, financial powers of attorney, and wills are more crucial than ever. But for the pandemic’s frontline responders, these legal documents can be difficult—or impossible—to take care of right now. This is where volunteers come in.

The State Bar of Michigan has launched a new initiative, the Frontline Responders Legal Helpline, where qualified attorneys can volunteer to give peace of mind to medical workers and first responders by helping them prepare those documents at no charge.

The Frontline Responders Legal Helpline connects pandemic first responders needing the following legal documents with lawyers who will provide services at no charge:

—Medical Powers of Attorney

—Financial Powers of Attorney

 —Simple/Statutory Wills

Who’s eligible to volunteer?

Any member of the State Bar of Michigan in good standing who provides proof of malpractice insurance coverage ($100,000 per occurrence/$300,000 aggregate).

What if I don’t have malpractice insurance?

If you want to help but don’t have malpractice insurance, please consider a contribution to the Access to Justice Fund to help provide legal services to those who can’t afford them in these challenging times.

This isn’t my normal practice area. What resources are available to help me assist clients?

ICLE has generously made available free resources and training for lawyers involved in the Frontline Responders Legal Helpline. Those resources – which provide guidance on drafting simple wills, durable powers of attorney, patient advocate designation documents and directions on new remote notarization procedures – will be shared with participating lawyers once they sign up.

Additionally, Michigan Legal Help offers some relevant free tools, such as the DIY Michigan Statutory Will, that can be used by members of the public or attorneys. If you volunteer, you may be connected to a potential client who has used a DIY tool and produced documents for you to review.

The Probate and Estate Planning and the Elder Law and Disability Rights sections are assisting the State Bar in providing relevant practices resources, which will be posted and updated here and be updated regularly.

How do I assist clients during the pandemic?

Under Executive Order 2020-41, you’re encouraged to use electronic signatures and remote notarization, witnessing, and visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information about remote notarization and electronic signatures, including the platforms available to you, can be found at www.michbar.org/generalinfo/COVID-19-resources

Where do I sign up?

Have your malpractice insurance declaration page handy, then join the Frontline Responders Legal Helpline by registering on our Lawyer Referral Service platform at www.michbar.org. Note that this initiative uses the Lawyer Referral Service platform for registration, but lawyers signing up for the Frontline Responders Legal Helpline will not become members of the regular Lawyer Referral Service. If you need help, there are directions on the site.

Who’s eligible to receive help?

The Frontline Responders Legal Helpline is available to workers in medical facilities who are directly involved with the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients, ambulance crews, the cleaning crews that support their efforts, and police and EMTs. We recognize that there are many other critical infrastructure workers who are keeping things going for us all at heightened personal risk, and we thank them. As we assess our capacity to help all the frontline workers who need legal help, we will also be assessing our ability to open up the program further during the pandemic crisis.

More information for frontline responders, including how to get help, can be found at https://lrs.michbar.org/LRS-Info/Frontline-Responders-Legal-Helpline

If there are  unanswered questions, please email covid19@michbar.org.


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