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VIP in Action Published November 2, 2022

VIP Partners with Habitat for Humanity and Chubb to Draft Wills

This spring, Philadelphia VIP volunteers partnered with Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia to plan free estate planning and financial information clinics for low-income Philadelphians.

During the first of the three clinic sessions, community members sat down with legal volunteers to discuss their wishes. The volunteers counseled their clients on the different estate planning documents available to them, including wills and powers of attorney, and advised them of next steps.

“It was wonderful to participate in the Philly VIP/Habitat for Humanity Estate Planning Clinic with my colleagues from the Chubb Pro Bono Program. We all found it immensely rewarding to get to know our clients and help them memorialize their end of life wishes,” said Anna Hershenberg, Counsel at Chubb.

After the first session, the clients discussed their options with their families before they returned to the clinic to finalize their plans. The same volunteer sat with them, reviewed their plans, and helped them execute the necessary documents – all at no cost.

It was a good venture, something that I had not thought a lot about or thought I could afford. VIP made it easy, and it really opened my eyes to how important a will is. It took away a lot of anxieties.
— client Cynthia Harris

Advance planning documents, like wills and powers of attorney, can help prevent family disputes, protect property from scams, and help Philadelphians make thoughtful decisions about important matters, such as their medical care and who will own their home when they die.

“It was so exciting to see so many folks get their estate plans completed and notarized. To see this daunting task completed and know that folks did the work to protect and steward their life-long investments felt like a relief,” said Carrie Rathmann, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia. 

Wills are also vital to families and communities trying to build generational wealth. In Philadelphia, there are more than 10,000 “tangled titles” collectively worth $1.1 billion. Tangled titles occur when someone is living in a home but their name is not on the deed to the property. To avoid complications after death, creating a will that protects one’s assets, including housing, is essential.

“In this community most people do not have wills, our parents didn’t know the importance of wills, but now I have been preaching to my neighbors about it. Now that I have seen how many houses got torn down in my community because people did not have an estate plan, I can see how important it is for people to have one,” said Cynthia Harris.