Hampshire Elder Law Program receives grant from Massachusetts Bar Foundation

Last modified: Friday, July 04, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — The Hampshire Elder Law Program, founded under the umbrella of the Hampshire County Bar Association to offer civil legal services to elderly people, has received a grant for $11,000 from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation.

The money will help keep the program running for the next year.

Rebecca Ryan, executive director of the bar association, said the program began in September 2007 when Jan Stiefel of Community Legal Aid approached the Hampshire County Bar Association with her concern that there was a gap in the support they could offer elderly civil issues.

She then successfully sought a grant from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation to fund the program. It has continued to receive an Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Account annual grant to ensure it continues.

Each lawyer who takes on cases for the elder law program has experience in civil legal matters volunteering to be on the panel of attorneys helping with the program. They work at a reduced rate of $50 per hour, up to $1,000 per case, though Ryan said that they rarely reach that limit on any case.

Attorneys help with issues such as bankruptcy, consumer protection, divorce, guardianship, health care proxies, powers of attorney, probate of estates and wills. Ryan noted that they work with the elderly to write basic wills and address financial issues most frequently.

In order to obtain legal assistance, each client must be over 60, a Hampshire County resident, and low-income. Once approved, clients are referred to an attorney on the panel on a rotating basis, said Ryan.