In the summer of 2003, Patrick Maher, a police officer in the Seattle area, stood by his parents’ graves and talked with his wife about the steps that would have to be taken in the event of his own death. One week later, Officer Maher was shot to death after responding to an argument at a convenience store.
Renee Maher recalled her grief was exacerbated in the months that followed as she struggled to put the family’s estate in order. She understood her husband’s wishes, but they weren’t formally documented. That would take months to clear up and add to her anguish at the worst possible time.
“I became the poster child for someone who should have known better,” said Maher, who was a licensed attorney in Hawaii at the time and is now executive director of the Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs in Seattle. “It became one of the goals of my life to encourage as many first responders as possible to be proactive and answer the tough questions.”
Maher is on the board of directors for Washington First Responder Will Clinic, an organization that works with those who serve the public in dangerous roles to plan for worst-case scenarios.
Prompted by challenges that confronted the families of those who died in the line of duty on 9/11, the nonprofit provides support, services and resources to eligible first responders and their families.
Washington First Responder Will Clinic at Starbucks
Tomorrow (October 22), Starbucks will host a clinic at the Starbucks Support Center in Seattle. This is the company’s 10th consecutive year of involvement with Washington First Responder Will Clinic, which will complete its 2000th estate plan at the event. The clinics are designed to assist with basic estate planning needs. Starbucks attorneys and paralegals, along with other volunteers, assist first responders who've registered in advance and met the financial requirements. Throughout the day, volunteer legal professionals will prepare simple wills, living wills and powers of attorney documents at no cost.
Devon Gores, a member of the Starbucks Law & Corporate Affairs Department Pro Bono Committee (pictured below), said the clinics at Starbucks headquarters are set up for maximum efficiency and comfort. Complimentary food and beverages are provided and a play area is available for children. Documents are prepared and reviewed, then printed, signed, executed and notarized.
“By the end of one hour, they’re on their way, hopefully with another cup of coffee,” said Gores.
‘There for all the right reasons’
Jenni Volk, who helped found the group 11 years ago and remains its president of operations, said the services provided free of charge would cost around $1,500 per couple in Seattle. Initially, the organization was viewed with some skepticism by police officers and firefighters who were reluctant to provide personal information and had a hard time believing the services were really free. Maher, who’s well connected with Washington state’s first responder community, helped break down barriers. These days, slots are booked almost as soon as registration opens.
“The Starbucks clinics are just phenomenal,” said Maher. “The officers and their families have been treated so well. I’ve heard from people that go to work right afterward. They go to roll call and tell everyone about how well they were treated and that this is a legitimate thing. This isn’t a bunch of people trying to upsell something. This is a group of people who are there for all the right reasons.”