Estate planning is key for senior citizens, but some local seniors and low income citizens might not have the spare funds to pay a lawyer to draft necessary legal documents. Through the Davenport Estate Planning Service program, students at Davenport University have provided about $100,000 worth of free legal estate planning services over the last five years. The community members who benefit from this free program otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford these legal services.
“The Davenport Estate Planning Service program allows paralegal students to practice what they have learned in the class and get feedback on their work,” said Ron Foster, a licensed attorney and DU distinguished adjunct faculty member in charge of the DEPS program. “There is a threshold of learning how to do it versus getting something right or wrong.”
The program is a part of the academic experiential learning experience for students taking Estate Planning and Probate Law (LEGL308).
“It is one thing to take a class or read a book,” Foster said. “But it’s another to say that you met with real clients and prepared real documents under the supervision of an attorney. They spend half of the class interviewing clients, preparing documents and following up. It is a very hands-on and applicable for the students.”
Students like Allissa Webster, a legal studies major, have seen the direct benefits of the experiential learning opportunity.
“My experience working with DEPS has been educational and professional, and I feel prepared for my future career,” Webster said. “I now feel comfortable working with legal documents and I enjoy working under pressure to meet deadlines. I am prepared to work under an attorney.”
Sonia Kaur, a student from Hamilton, Canada, returned for a second semester to serve as an intern with DEPS.
“I took the class in winter of 2016 and loved the hands-on experience, so I jumped at the internship opportunity,” Kaur said. “While interning, I was able to supervise and help the students. I felt confident in answering questions and helping out because I had taken this class before.”
The experience prepares students for jobs inside and outside the legal field, Foster said.
“When students go for a job interview they can say they have done interviews, prepped forms and helped people design what they needed,” he said. “They have the basic skills that are transferable to almost any arena.”
Kaur shared her experience with DEPS in a recent job interview.
“I saw their eyes widen because it is such a great service and they couldn’t believe DU made such a big effort to get this program going,” Kaur said.
Receive free estate planning advice
DEPS will host a free estate planning seminar from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 15, at the Kentwood Branch of the Kent District Library at 4950 Breton SE. At the event, attendees will learn about wills and financial and medical power of attorney. At the end, there will be an opportunity to set up an appointment to have estate planning documents prepared free of charge. The event is especially targeted to people who are low income.