Free Legal Help for Low-Income Seniors

The 'Community Law Program' provides free legal services for older citizens on limited incomes.

How do you create a will? How do you establish a power of attorney? For some it can be difficult to prepare documents and pay for such legal services.

Did you know that older Gulfport citizens with limited incomes can recieve free legal assistance with elder law issues, thanks to a monthly program at the Gulfport Multi-Purpose Senior Center

Yes, it’s true. 

It’s called the “Community Law Program.” It has been in existence in Pinellas County since 1990, but has only been a program at the local senior center since 2009. Monthly one-on-one sessions at the center with an attorney are held on the third Friday of the month beginning at 9:30 a.m. The next "free clinic" is on Friday, Nov. 18.

Who is behind this initiative? This program has been made possible thanks to a group of local attorneys with the St. Petersburg Bar Association, who volunteer their time at various “legal clinics,” such as the one at the Gulfport Multi-Purpose Senior Center for free consultations. In many cases, these attorneys also then go on to provide direct representation to those elderly clients who need it to further resolve their specific legal issues.

One of those lawyers is Elder Law Attorney Lyndy C. Jennings, with the Hill Law Group, P.A. in St. Petersburg. Jennings has been coming to the local senior center for nearly two years. Much of her pro bono work for individuals she says has been ”helping them establish estate planning documents such as wills, living wills, powers of attorney and health care surrogates. These documents are important no matter how much money a person has or doesn’t have.”

What is especially important for seniors to know, “there have been major revisions to the Florida power of attorney statute that went into effect on October 1 of this year. The revisions are a result of Florida adopting its version of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, which should bring more consistency among the states and greater protection for people who have a power of attorney.” 

Under this new law, she noted, it requires durable powers of attorney to be executed with two witnesses and notarized. Some of the other changes include who can serve as an agent, duties of the agent, and the granting of “superpowers”; however, there are many other changes. She suggested that if you have an existing durable power of attorney and have questions about it, you should contact your attorney.

Kyle Fleming, who serves as case manager for the Community Law Program, has the responsibility of pre-screening applicants for this initiative. He pointed out that the “legal clinic” offered at the local senior center is designed to help those older adults living within certain federal poverty guidelines, as established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

For a single individual, that would mean he or she cannot have an income that is more than 185% of the current poverty guidelines, which translates to a monthly income of $1,678.88.  For a senior couple, they cannot have an income that exceeds $2,267.79 on a monthly basis.

Despite these income restrictions many people have been helped through this program at the center and this charitable endeavor is likely to continue to be in high demand – given the growing senior population.

Regarding the Community Law Program’s significance to the Gulfport Multi-Purpose Senior Center, Supervisor Susan Frank noted, “We are constantly striving to provide as many different and noteworthy services as possible to reach seniors from all walks of life in the community. The Community Law Program is an excellent example of this ongoing endeavor for us to make this facility the very best it can be for seniors.”

Please note: In addition to the free, monthly legal counseling at the for select seniors on elder law issues, the Community Law Program offers various clinics for free legal services on other matters to lower income citizens in the community, including seniors. Other areas of the law addressed at these clinics include: Family Law, General Civil Legal Issues, Divorce, Parenting, Bankruptcy, Probate, Housing and Small Claims. For a schedule, listing individual clinics and their times and locations for services, please visit: www.lawprogram.org


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