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Tuesday, February 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Military veterans can get free estate planning

Last year, former U.S. Marine Jeff Jensen found peace of mind in just 15 minutes.

“I know I’m good, should something happen,” Jensen said this week. “I know where my fishing tackles are going, and my African violets.”

The 50 or so potted plants populating Jensen’s home and office as a counselor at the Spokane Vet Center were secured in the will the former serviceman had prepared during last year’s Washington Vets Will Clinic.

This month, the collaborative effort between the Spokane County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, Army OneSource, Red Cross, Gonzaga University and numerous veterans’ groups at the federal and state level will once again offer estate planning free of charge to anyone who has served at any time with any branch of the U.S. armed forces.

The Young Lawyers group devised the service last spring after being approached by OneSource to provide legal services for veterans, who number more than 600,000 statewide, clinic chairman Jacob Brennan said.

“Since then, we’ve partnered with a few other groups to help get the word out,” Brennan, a Gonzaga alum and president-elect of the Young Lawyers Division, said.

Last year, more than 30 lawyers assisted in preparing documents for roughly 85 preregistered veterans, Brennan said. The clinic expects to surpass those numbers this year with additional events planned in Wenatchee and Seattle.

Jensen, who has sung the praises of the project to veterans he counsels, said the process was painless and confidential, saving him at least $500. He provided some details to a lawyer he met with individually. She entered the information into a template and handed the document off to one of the Gonzaga law students, who volunteer and receive practical training in the preparation of wills.

“A law student took it, entered the information and – zoom – out it pops,” Jensen said. “That whole procedure took less than 15 or 20 minutes.”

Brennan said those who signed up last year were mostly older veterans like Jensen, who served in the West Pacific in the early 1970s before leaving the service and joining the Department of Veterans Affairs. But the clinic is also about extending services to younger vets who no longer are eligible for legal services through the military’s Judge Advocate General Corps system.

“As soon as they leave, there is no safety net for them,” Brennan said of the newer generation. “Even the young veterans still need the services.”

The clinic will consider applications from all veterans, regardless of discharge status, who can prove their record of service, Brennan said. The deadline to apply online is Wednesday.

“I know some veterans might be scared that their personal information might be disclosed,” Jensen said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

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