MU estate planning program to benefit both law students and Boone County residents

The Mizzou Law Pro Bono Estate Planning Program will allow eight law students to give pro bono legal services to community members in need.
Courtesy of MU School of Law

The MU School of Law and Family Impact Center will partner to provide free estate planning services to residents of Boone County and surrounding counties through the Mizzou Law Pro Bono Estate Planning Program next month.

For the third consecutive semester, the program will allow selected law students to partner under the supervision of adjunct professor and attorney Cynthia Barchet and ideally provide services to one client for every student involved.

“It gives [law students] some experience in seeing how the theory of the law applies to real people and real situations,” Barchet said. “I think it may inspire them because they’re helping real people.”

Cynthia has been supervising the program since last fall and has overseen the students’ drafting of wills and making financial and estate plans with their clients.

“It’s good for the legal community to give back to the community at large,” Barchet said. “There are some individuals who have very difficult financial situations and yet still need legal services and it’s important to meet those needs.”

Potential clients who wish to seek estate planning services are required to complete an application from either Jennifer Riedy Clark, the director of public interest programs at the MU School of Law, or the MU Family Impact Center before the week of Oct. 30.

“It helps the community by being able to provide these documents to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to get them,” Clark said.

Ten students have been able to participate each semester, serving 20 clients total. The program hopes to serve as many, or more, this year, according to an MU School of Law press release.

“The law school has a mission to provide pro bono service to the community,” Clark said. “It allows our students to get involved providing pro bono service, but it also gives them a substance of skill sets in a specific area of the law, which is estate planning and drafting wills.”

Clark said the program also teaches law students how to interact with clients.

This semester, eight students will be selected to pair off into four teams. The applications, usually under twenty in number, are reviewed by Barchet and the finalized list will be announced this week.

“They’re very dedicated; it’s nice to see them connect with the clients and to give them some goals about their estate planning and choices about their estates,” Barchet said. “Usually they’re pretty excited and they do a great job.”

The teams of selected students will meet with their assigned clients the week of Oct. 30 and spend a couple weeks drafting the legal documents. After their documents are reviewed by Barchet, the students will meet again with their clients to sign them officially.

Prior to the establishment of the Boone County program, students were taken to Rolla over spring break to assist clients in estate planning.

“It proved to be a little bit difficult as far as it being over spring break and making sure we had enough clients and time,” Clark said. “We thought it might be better for students to have a little bit longer and to do it more locally.”

Edited by Olivia Garrett |

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