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How a MN program is helping first responders plan for the future

One aspect of their jobs that most people take for granted is the predictability it offers. In other words, even though their day can become very hectic with phone calls, meetings and paperwork, it will typically follow the same course and end relatively peacefully.

The reality is much different for the hundreds of first responders here in Minnesota, the majority of whom can count on their days being anything but predictable. Indeed, these brave men and women can encounter a potentially dangerous or even deadly scenario at any given time on any given day of the week.

In light of this reality, it's really very important for these first responders -- law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, corrections officers -- to have the necessary estate planning instruments in place in the event the unthinkable occurs.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that many of them don't have these documents in place and that this failure to do so can present major headaches for their grieving families further down the line.

"When you're 25 or 26 or 27, you're walking around feeling pretty invincible, thinking: It isn't going to happen to me," said the president of the Law Enforcement Memorial Association of Minnesota. "Unfortunately, we've dealt with a number of deaths where they haven't had wills and things go to probate, and things get complicated."

The good news is that these emergency responders have a viable option for getting the estate planning assistance they need and deserve thanks to Minnesota's Wills for Heroes Program.

Introduced in the state in 2007, the program sends both volunteers from the Minnesota State Bar Association and attorneys to police stations, fire departments and other facilities across the state to help first responders -- and their spouses -- execute everything from simple wills and health care directives to documents conferring powers of attorney.

To date, the program has assisted close to 9,000 first responders and is on the cusp of executing its 10,000 will sometime next month. Indeed, the program has proven so popular that many state agencies book sessions several years in advance.

"It really is a relief, not only for myself but for my wife. It makes things so much easier," said one patrolman who was originally uncertain as to where to turn for help with estate planning.

Here's hoping that this program continues to see incredible success and serves as a reminder to the rest of the general public as to just how important it is to have a proper estate plan in place.

Source: The Star Tribune, "Minnesota will-planning program offers peace officers some peace of mind," Jennifer Brooks, Aug. 7, 2014

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