Valensi Rose attorney Autumn Ronda recently planned and organized a pro bono estate planning clinic in collaboration with Bet Tzedek Legal Services. The clinic provided low-income individuals with custom wills and Advanced Health Care Directives.

Ms. Ronda conducted the clinic with the assistance of eight student volunteers from the Estate Planning course she teaches at Loyola Law School, as well as of Valensi Rose attorney Rachel E. Balchum, Clark & Trevithick attorney Tiffany A. Halimi, and many committed and knowledgeable Bet Tzedek staff members.

For the past 40 years, Bet Tzedek Legal Services has provided free, expert legal advice and representation to low-income residents of Los Angeles County. Bet Tzedek regularly holds testamentary planning clinics; however, in the past, they were only able to offer their clients “Statutory Wills,” which are pre-printed forms found in the Probate Code that provide little room for customization.

During planning discussions, Diego Cartagena, Associate Vice President and Pro Bono Director at Bet Tzedek, explained to Ms. Ronda that because the Statutory Wills substantially limit the clients’ planning options, the organization had a backlog of clients who required personalized, “attorney-drafted” wills in order to meet their testamentary planning goals.

To enhance the clinic and address this issue, Ms. Ronda arranged for use of sophisticated drafting software and laptops, so that the volunteers could incorporate customized language to ensure the clients’ special planning goals were achieved.

Ms. Ronda elaborated on the satisfaction of organizing the clinic: “I wanted my students to gain practical experience in advising clients and drafting documents, and Bet Tzedek has many deserving clients in need of testamentary planning documents—it was a perfect match!”

She further commented, “There were certainly challenges in pulling this off, such as managing the cases in which the client spoke no English and interpreters were necessary, but overall the clinic was a huge success. Without the clinic, the 16 clients served would not have the crucial testamentary documents they left with, nor the peace of mind they received from the experience.”