Retired lawyer providing a will for those who need it most
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — For some of metro Richmond’s most vulnerable residents — the poor, the aged, the sick — G. Andrew Nea Jr. provides pro bono serenity.
Nea, since his retirement a decade ago from the Williams Mullen law firm, has donated his legal services to thousands of individuals in need of a will, power of attorney and an advance medical directive.
His clients include low-income cancer patients, military veterans, recovering drug addicts and senior citizens directed to him by nonprofits, senior organizations, social services agencies and McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“He’s helped 3,000 people for us alone,” said Thelma Watson, executive director of Senior Connections, which helps older adults and caregivers maintain independence. “These are people who otherwise would have not received that assistance.”
“He is a very caring individual who really believes in giving back to the community, and he does that very generously,” said Watson of Nea, the recipient of the agency’s Richard W. Hogan Award for Volunteer Service. “He gives so freely of his time and expertise. We’re so fortunate to have him in the Richmond community.”
Nea, past chairman of the Financial Services Practice Group at Williams Mullen, retired in April 2007. Shortly thereafter, he attended a pro bono conference at the University of Richmond, where he was taken aback at the percentage of Americans without end-of-life documents.
“What that means is, if you die and don’t have a will, the state makes one for you. If you become incompetent, you’re into social services and guardianships and courts. And if you don’t have a medical directive, you’re in the hospital protocols,” he said. In each case, a third party is making decisions for you.
He says he can only guess why so many people lack these crucial documents. “There are some people that think, ‘Well, if I make my will, I’m going to die.’ It’s something that no one wants to face,” he said.
“It can be expensive. And if you’re allocating disposable income, a will and power of attorney can be way down the list.”
Nea was brought to the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s attention by Denise A. Kranich, executive director of CancerLINC, which provides legal and financial assistance to low-income cancer patients.
In an email, Kranich said Nea has helped more than 250 of the nonprofit’s patients at its Life Planning Workshops, which Nea helped CancerLINC create with Capital One and Williams Mullen. For his efforts, he received CancerLINC’s Pro Bono Advocate Award in May.
“If we have someone who has more complicated estate planning, we refer many of our clients to Andy,” Kranich said. “Andy very rarely says no, and if he can’t help, he helps us find someone else to assist our client.”
Nea estimates that he does 30 clinics annually, assisting a total of about 600 people. He enlists volunteer help from other lawyers and law students. His host organizations screen and sign up clients, who arrive with a completed questionnaire detailing their wishes.
“In 45 minutes, they walk out with all three documents executed and a complete set of instructions,” Nea said, adding that the wills are kept simple for the sake of the recipient and the volunteers.
Williams Mullen gives him an office and logistical support. As the firm’s Pro Bono Partner, Nea also serves as counsel to Metro Richmond Habitat for Humanity and the Heart of Virginia Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
“My whole career, I’ve liked to help people, and this is just helping people in a different way,” said Nea, a Williamsburg native. “It’s always giving back. I’ve been very lucky, very fortunate. It’s always nice to return. What’s the term now? Pay it forward?”
The fact that these clients are facing more challenges than most makes Nea and his volunteers even more eager to assist.
“These people have needs. And in a short period of time, you can make a difference. You can help them,” he said.
“In one sense, it’s not easy. But it’s very, very rewarding for all the volunteers, because what you’re doing, if nothing else, is you’re bringing peace of mind.”
Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.richmond.com