Two Austin attorneys discovered there was a void within the cancer community and decided to do something about it. In April 2017, they founded the CANLAW Clinic to provide estate planning legal services to cancer patients.
“The most rewarding aspect is knowing that our clients are equipped with the documents they need to deal with treatment and that the families will not be completely overwhelmed if their loved one does pass,” said co-founder Caitlin Haney Johnston. “Dealing with cancer is difficult in any situation, but not having the proper power of attorneys in place can make it even more overwhelming.”
Johnston and co-founder Randy Cubriel enlisted the Austin Bar Association, Austin Bar Foundation, Capital Area Paralegal Association, TXDocs, and other partners for the clinics. Each CANLAW Clinic offers a comprehensive estate planning package that covers wills, statutory durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, HIPAA releases, and physicians directives (living wills). The clinics also provide documents for more complicated estate planning needs and matches clients with attorneys who can address those.
Clinics are four hours and provide qualifying clients with a one-on-one meeting with a pair of volunteer attorneys. The attorneys assist them in reviewing documents, appointing fiduciaries, and dividing up their estate. They draft documents and review them with clients. Volunteer proofreaders then go through the documents before they are signed before notaries and witnesses.
So far, CANLAW has helped more than 30 clients, including nine walk-ins at a clinic in September. Clinics, which take place twice a year, are held at community partners’ facilities around Austin. Johnston and Cubriel are determining a location for the next clinic, which will take place in spring 2018.
Cubriel said he wants the clinics to streamline estate planning for patients and survivors—whether in preparation for end of life or incapacitation—who are busy with medical appointments, work, and family.
“What we don’t want them to do is go online or to a bookstore (or office supply store) and get something that doesn’t really cover their needs and that more likely than not is not properly executed,” he said. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity for this clientele to get this issue addressed by licensed attorneys at one stop in a relatively short amount of time.”
For more information on qualifying for a clinic, go to cancerlawclinic.org.