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Helping Seniors and Veterans at Make-A-Will Event

Ozzie Silva is a disabled Marine Corps veteran. At the urging of his sister, Wanda, Ozzie attended the Northeast New Jersey Legal Services “Make-A-Will” event at Villa Borinquen in Jersey City.

NNJLS Veterans’ attorney Jenna D’Attilo met with Ozzie, who needed assistance with his Last Will and Testament and his VA benefits. Ozzie is hoping to have his benefits issues revisited and to draw up a Will, so his sister could take care of his estate just in case something happens.

Senior citizens such as Ozzie think a Last Will and Testament is out of financial reach. This is where Northeast New Jersey Legal Services can help. Our attorneys and outreach staff assisted 13 qualifying seniors and veterans at the “Make-A-Will” event in starting the process of creating a lasting legacy.

“Our clients cannot afford private attorneys and if they don’t have a Will, there’s a chance their estate will not be distributed the way they wish,” said NNJLS attorney Anna Navatta, who serves as NNJLS' Director of Community Relations. “If they go through administration, there are extra expenses that our clients definitely cannot afford.”

In his eight years as a probate clerk prior to joining NNJLS, attorney Josue Madrid often worked with petitioners whose loved ones did not have a Will. As a result, the family would end up in Surrogate Court because they would need court authorization to perform an act on behalf of the decedent, he noted.

Some people think that you only need a Will if you have assets, Josue said.

There are also people of limited means who do not have $400 to $1,000 to have a lawyer draft a Will. Yet the reality is that everyone is better off having a Will, even if a person has little by way of assets, Josue said. 

“The five clients I saw fit the mold of not having much. Yet for each client I expressed to them that having a Will functions like an insurance policy,” Josue said. “By this I mean that the manner and circumstances at the time of death are unknown, therefore it is better to have a mechanism in place that allows for all factors to be taken care of in one shot, rather than the piecemeal approach that the laws of intestacy provide.”

For the clients Josue serviced at the event, Josue will be able to move them from intestate to testate.

“Whether they end up needing it or not, they are set up for a broad set of circumstances,” Josue said. “Were it not for the Make-A-Will event, these same persons would have surely died intestate.”

For Marine veteran Ozzie, having a Will gives him and his family peace of mind. Living in a low-income apartment on a fixed income, Ozzie didn’t think he had enough personal items that necessitated a Will being drafted. But he appreciates that what he does have will now go to family, thanks to the help of NNJLS.


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