Estate Planning Project

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Introduction:

The Veterans Legal Clinic–its official title in the curriculum is the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic–is made up of three collaborative projects:  the  Veterans Justice Project; the Estate Planning Project; and the Safety Net Project .  Through these three projects, students represent veterans and their family members in a variety of case types.  In all our case work, we strive to help veterans and their families attain the maximum degree of stability, dignity, and financial well being.  We use creative legal strategies not just to vindicate the rights of individual veterans, but to pursue systemic reforms within the institutions and programs that are designed to support the veteran community.

Enrollment in all three projects is through the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic and Clinical Seminar.  We ask enrolled students to express their preference for one of our three project areas.  Students can also choose, however, to work across two projects if that option is attractive to them.  We fully expect to be able to honor each student’s first preference for working in a particular project. This page is about the Estate Planning Project.  Scroll down to learn more about the Estate Planning Project.

(For more information about the Veterans Justice Project, please click here.  For more information about the Safety Net Project, please click here.)

About the work of the Estate Planning Project:

Through the Project, student handle various case types, all with the purpose of helping veterans exercise the maximum control over family, health, and financial decision making.  Among other things, students represent clients on matters involving:

  • wills
  • powers of attorney
  • health care proxies
  • living wills
  • trusts
  • special needs trusts
  • guardianships
  • conservatorships
  •  probate of estates
  • qualifying for VA Pension
  • qualifying for MassHealth

Clinic students will have numerous lawyering opportunities, including client interviewing, legal research & writing, client counseling, drafting and executing legal instruments, and appearances in Probate Court.

Many of the veterans we represent have serious health issues.  Some clients are older and in failing health, others are younger and have returned from recent overseas deployments with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury as well as other injuries.  Students in the Clinic have frequent opportunities to interact with medical providers and medical experts and to work on cases at the intersection of mental health and the law.

Representative Case Examples from the Estate Planning Project

Please click here to learn more about the Project’s current and recent docket.

For more information about the Clinic or to ask questions, please email Clinical Instructor and Project Director Tamara Kolz Griffin at tkolz[at]law.harvard.edu

What Students Are Saying About Their Experiences in the Estate Planning Project

• “One of my most valuable experiences at Harvard Law School has been working with the Estate Planning Project in the Veterans Legal Clinic.” (Spring 2016) — See here for more information.

• “This past September, I enrolled in the Estate Planning Project, with the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. My work with that clinic turned out to be one of the most valuable, and absolutely the most rewarding experience of my academic career.”  (Spring 2016) — See here for more information.

The Clinic plays a vital community role.  There are approximately 400,000 veterans in Massachusetts, and a significant percentage—including far too many homeless veterans and a growing population of women veterans—lacks access to legal representation.  Helping this population addresses an enormous unmet legal need and provides students a powerful opportunity to advocate for those who have served the country and fallen on hard times.  Students work on compelling and timely legal issues, from compensation for military sexual trauma or Agent Orange exposure to protection of a veteran’s limited assets and access to healthcare.

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We are grateful to the DAV Charitable Service Trust for its generous support of our legal services program for disabled veterans.