“My Father served in the military— that is the benchmark I use for giving back,” says Ohio trial and firearms lawyer Erik R. Blaine. Throughout the year, Blaine volunteers his time as the lead attorney for the Dayton Wills for Heroes program by preparing wills for first responders, and teaching other lawyers how to provide this service.
The program is known nationwide as Wills for Heroes, and the Dayton Bar Association is now in its sixth year of helping members of the Ohio law enforcement community plan for emergencies and the inevitable future. In June 2014, Blaine and the other Dayton volunteers celebrated the drafting of the 1,000th will for the first responder community.
“It’s a phenomenal program,” says Blaine. “The families can come back any time to make updates to reflect their growing or changing needs. I’ve gotten to know the families, and it’s important to be involved in the community that has given me and my family so much.”
The issues he works on with the families include health care decisions, designating power of attorney, and ensuring that responders’ children will have a guardian.
“You don’t need to be an estate planner to lend a hand. At the training sessions for lawyers, we walk them through the process and partner those who are new with lawyers who have experience with the project,” says Blaine.
The Wills for Heroes program started shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when attorney Anthony Hayes emailed his local fire department in Columbia, South Carolina, to see how lawyers could help the fire department. He discovered that what the group needed was help with estate planning.
The program now serves first responders across the country. Qualified first responders include firefighters, police officers, paramedics, corrections and probation officers from federal, state, county, city and town departments and agencies.