Caitlin Haney Johnston, a young attorney in Austin, TX, was recovering from an unrelated surgery on her 28th birthday when she heard the words no one wants to hear. “We found cancer.” Those three words altered the direction of her life. Diagnosed with Stage II Goblet Cell Carcinoid, a very rare type of appendix cancer, she was lucky they had removed the cancer, quite on accident, before it had a chance to spread. Her prognosis is a 20 percent chance of reoccurrence in the next five years.
“Given my good fortune in finding my cancer early while so many others did not,” said Haney Johnston, “I had a deep desire to give back to the cancer community. I had estate planning experience, so I decided the best way to help was to share my legal knowledge with others.”
She began by speaking on the topic of health care documents and estate planning at CancerCon, the largest gathering of young adult cancer survivors in the country held in Denver, CO, and at various cancer survivor support-groups in the Austin area. She quickly assessed a need for a “one-stop” approach to estate planning for an already tired and overwhelmed population of cancer survivors. “For people who are already strained for time and monetary resources, the idea of spending hours in an attorney’s office, and hundreds or thousands of dollars for legal services, is overwhelming,” remarked Haney Johnston. “Further, no one likes to plan for incapacitation or death because everyone is trying to “stay positive” after a cancer diagnosis.” Many turn to online wills which most often stop short of accomplishing what they intend to do, or are simply incorrectly executed.
Haney Johnston joined forces with Randy Cubriel, a fellow attorney and young adult cancer survivor in Austin. The two gained the support and backing of the Austin Bar Association and the Austin Bar Foundation to create CANLAW – a Cancer Legal Clinic. CANLAW’s mission is to take away all the excuses for avoiding estate planning by offering the service free of charge to members of the cancer community.
The first CANLAW clinic will be held on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Southeast Health and Wellness Center, 290 Montopolis Dr. in Austin from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. The clinic is free and open to all types of cancer survivors, regardless of the type or stage of cancer they have, and whether or not they are still in active treatment. Those currently in remission are welcome to attend. Clients will meet with an attorney volunteer and leave with a properly drafted and executed Medical Power of Attorney, Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, HIPPA Release, Healthcare Directive and Last Will and Testament. Planning is also provided for people with minor children, including simple testamentary trusts.
Before arriving at the clinic, clients should fill out the qualifying questionnaire at www.cancerlawclinic.org. There are no income restrictions, but there are some limitations on owning out-of-state real property, prenuptial or divorce agreements that affect estate planning, and other asset restrictions.
On the day of the clinic, clients should bring their IDs and the address and phone number for their Statutory Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney.