HARRISBURG (Nov. 13, 2013) - Organizers of "Wills for Heroes," a program providing free wills and other estate planning documents for Pennsylvania's emergency responders, will present the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Verdina Y. Showell Award to Sandra A. Romaszewski of Fox Rothschild's Warrington office.
Romaszewski will receive the award at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, 11630 Caroline Road, Philadelphia.
The award recognizes outstanding community service and commitment to the Wills for Heroes program and is named in memory of a lawyer with Exelon Business Services Company LLC who was an early proponent of the Wills for Heroes program in Pennsylvania.
Romaszewski serves as voluntary coordinator of Wills for Heroes programs in Bucks County and assists at events in additional counties. She developed a manual that helps lawyer volunteers use the software program that formats the wills and additional legal documents for the Wills for Heroes participants. Romaszewski also recruits volunteers such as students of Peirce College's paralegal program to help with Wills for Heroes events.
"Thanks to Sandra's commendable efforts, the Wills for Heroes program in Pennsylvania has provided peace of mind to many first responders and their families," said Robert Datorre, chair, PBA Young Lawyers Division. "With a will and other estate planning documents in place, these first responders and their families know their wishes are known and will be followed."
The PBA Young Lawyers Division adopted Wills for Heroes in 2008 as one of its major community service projects. The program was initially brought to Pennsylvania by Daniel McKenna, a Ballard Spahr attorney currently serving on the board of the national Wills for Heroes Foundation, the nonprofit organization responsible for encouraging national expansion of the program.
"Like Verdina Showell, Sandra places a high priority on providing free legal services where they were needed most," said McKenna. "We applaud Sandra for being a model volunteer and for helping to expand the program in Bucks County and additional Pennsylvania counties."
McKenna said that despite the inherently dangerous nature of their jobs, an
overwhelmingly large number of emergency responders - approximately 80 - 90% - do
not have wills. This figure is based on experiential data from state and national first
Wills for Heroes events are being held in Pennsylvania communities upon request of leaders from local police, fire and emergency medical personnel organizations and upon request of county bar associations. On a scheduled day, a team of lawyers bring computer laptops to a firehouse or meeting hall and spend at least an hour with each participant who pre-registers to attend the event.
A participant sits with a lawyer to review a questionnaire that the participant has filled out in advance. Answers are entered into a computer-based program. The lawyer reviews the resulting document with the participant to ensure its accuracy. After any necessary corrections are made, the will is printed, signed and notarized.
Upon request, lawyer volunteers also work with each participant to prepare an advance medical directive, often called a “living will," which specifies what actions should be taken for the participant's health in the event that he or she can no longer make decisions due to illness or incapacity.
In addition, lawyers prepare a durable power of attorney, a document that gives another person legal authority to act on behalf of the participant if the participant becomes incapacitated. These documents also are offered at no cost to participants.
Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 28,000 lawyers who are members of the association.