Georgia Heirs Property Law Center

Pro Bono Opportunities

Volunteering with Georgia Heirs Property Law Center

OPPORTUNITIES FOR ATTORNEYS

Provide Pro Bono Representation in Title Clearing and Probate Matters:

The Center’s geographic focus areas are Atlanta and South Georgia. As word spreads about the Center, we are receiving increasing requests for assistance in other parts of the state. The Center needs pro bono attorneys who are willing, with the Center’s support, to represent clients throughout Georgia in litigation and probate matters necessary to clear title. The Center would work with families to identify heirs and prepare the client on working with an attorney before passing the case to the volunteer. The Center would also provide support, forms and other written resources for volunteers and be available as a resource throughout the life of the case. Estimated Commitment: 20+ hours.

The Center currently has pro bono opportunities. Individuals interested in providing pro bono representation to these or future clients can contact Joann Johnston, Legal Programs Director, at jjohnston@gaheirsproperty.org. As future needs arise, the Center will contact attorneys on its pro bono referral list as well as pro bono partners/coordinators for dissemination to their attorneys.


Provide Limited Pro Bono Representation for Non-Center Client Family Members:

Due to conflict of interest rules, the Center typically limits its representation to one or two family members but includes other non-client family members in discussions as requested by the client(s). In resolving heirs property issues, non-clients are frequently asked to sign documents (deeds, LLC operating agreements, trust agreements, etc.) but cannot afford independent legal counsel to review those documents and answer any questions. This often leads non-Center clients to refuse to sign documents necessary to remediate the title issue, which in turn prevents the case from being resolved. The Center needs pro bono attorneys who are willing to provide limited representation reviewing the document(s) a non-Center client is being asked to sign and answering any questions that non-client has about the document(s). Estimated Commitment: 2-4 hours.

Individuals interested in providing limited pro bono representation contact Joann Johnston, Legal Programs Director, at jjohnston@gaheirsproperty.org. As future needs arise, the Center will contact attorneys on its pro bono referral list as well as pro bono partners/coordinators for dissemination to their attorneys.


Provide Pro Bono or Low Bono Special Master Services:

Quiet title actions under O.C.G.A. § 23-3-63 are often necessary to resolve heirs property issues. In these cases, the court is required to appoint a special master residing in the county to identify and order service of process on all necessary parties, oversee discovery, hold evidentiary hearings, and issue a recommendation to the court about ownership. Special masters can often be the most expensive part of a quit title action, with some charging a fixed fee while others charge their usual hourly rate. The Center needs attorneys who are willing to serve as special masters on a pro bono or low bono basis. There is no requirement that the attorney have been previously qualified as a special master – the Center will propose the volunteer as the special master and set forth his or her qualification to serve. The decision, however, ultimately resides with the court. Estimated Commitment: 10 to 20 hours.

Individuals interested in serving as special masters in quiet title cases can contact Joann Johnston, Legal Programs Director, at jjohnston@gaheirsproperty.org. As future needs arise, the Center will contact attorneys on its pro bono referral list as well as pro bono partners/coordinators for dissemination to their attorneys.


Provide Pro Bono Support for Heirs Property Prevention and Wills Clinics:

The Center frequently conducts Heirs Property Prevention and Wills Clinics for low-income property owners around the state. Each clinic participant will receive training in advance on estate planning, heirs property prevention, completing an estate planning questionnaire, and things to consider before meeting with an attorney and will leave the clinic with a simple last will and testament. Participants are required to have completed their estate planning questionnaires at least one week prior to the clinic. Pro bono volunteers are needed to prepare wills for clinic (either before or on the clinic day) and meeting with assigned participants on the day of the clinic to review and execute wills. Training, forms and materials are provided for pro bono attorneys. There are also opportunities for support staff, summer associates and interns to support the clinics by assisting clients in completing their estate planning questionnaires and serving as witnesses and notaries on the day of the clinic. Estimated commitment: 4-8 hours.

Individuals interested in volunteering at an Heirs Property Prevention and Wills Clinic can contact Joann Johnston, Legal Programs Director, at jjohnston@gaheirsproperty.org. As dates are set, the Center will contact potential volunteers as well as pro bono partners/coordinators for dissemination to their attorneys.


Provide Pro Bono Representation for Development of Complex Estate Plans:

Center clients occasionally have complicated estate planning needs, especially if special needs planning is involved, that go beyond the Center’s internal capacity. The Center needs pro bono attorneys with estate planning and trust expertise who are willing to assist low-income clients with these complex estate plans. Estimated commitment: 5-10 hours.

Individuals interested in providing complex estate planning services for low-income clients can contact Joann Johnston, Legal Programs Director, at jjohnston@gaheirsproperty.org. As future needs arise, the Center will contact attorneys on its pro bono referral list as well as pro bono partners/coordinators for dissemination to their attorneys.


Serve as “Subject Matter Experts”:

Center staff need pro bono volunteers with expertise in areas such as real property, title standards, probate, trusts and estates, special needs planning, litigation, and tax issues who can be available on an as needed basis to discuss thorny issues and provide feedback about our proposed resolution strategies. Staff typically do not provide the names of the client(s) or adverse parties and redact names from any documents shared with the expert, reducing the need for conflict searches. All subject matter experts are required to sign a confidentiality agreement. The Center’s Legal Programs Director serves as the single contact/conduit for all staff questions and controls the frequency and types of questions that are posed to subject matter experts. Estimated commitment: 1-2 hours per request.

Individuals interested in serving as subject matter experts can contact Joann Johnston, Legal Programs Director, at jjohnston@gaheirsproperty.org.

 

OPPORTUNITIES FOR NON-ATTORNEYS

Provide Pro Bono Support for Heirs Property Prevention and Wills Clinics:

The Center frequently conducts Heirs Property Prevention and Wills Clinics for low-income property owners around the state. Each clinic participant will receive training in advance on estate planning, heirs property prevention, completing an estate planning questionnaire, and things to consider before meeting with an attorney and will leave the clinic with a simple last will and testament. Participants are required to have completed their estate planning questionnaires at least one week prior to the clinic. Pro bono volunteers are needed to prepare wills for clinic (either before or on the clinic day) and meeting with assigned participants on the day of the clinic to review and execute wills. Training, forms and materials are provided for pro bono attorneys. There are also opportunities for support staff, summer associates and interns to support the clinics by assisting clients in completing their estate planning questionnaires and serving as witnesses and notaries on the day of the clinic. Estimated commitment: 4-8 hours.

Individuals interested in volunteering at an Heirs Property Prevention and Wills Clinic can contact Joann Johnston, Legal Programs Director, at jjohnston@gaheirsproperty.org. As dates are set, the Center will contact potential volunteers as well as pro bono partners/coordinators for dissemination to their attorneys.