A local law firm organized a launch party at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday, June 22 to commemorate its own legal advice book and kick start an educational campaign to raise awareness for legal documents it says people should have.
Grimaldi & Yeung LLP, a Bay Ridge law firm, organized the cocktail party at the Rotunda in Borough Hall to celebrate the launch of 5@55: the 5 Essential Legal Documents You Need by Age 55, which argues why everyone should have a will, health care proxy, living will, power of attorney, and a digital diary before the age of 55.
About 100 people attended, including Councilmember Vincent Gentile and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who both gave proclamations marking the book’s debut.
“I think the party was a success,” said Pierre Lehu, who helped draft the book. “This is an educational campaign, and that’s why these proclamations were made; it wasn’t just to pat someone on the back.”
Joanne Seminara, Lehu’s wife, and Judith Grimaldi wrote 5@55 because they found that many Americans don’t get the documents and end up in precarious legal situations when they die or are incapacitated.
“Instead of thinking of death and ‘I’m dying,’ think of it as a gift to your family to tell them what to do…instead of a stranger or a court making this decision,” Grimaldi said about the documents.
“The baby boomer generation is aging and they need these documents. And unfortunately the prevalence of Alzheimer’s is growing,” said Seminara, who noted that some people put off getting the documents until it is too late, which can cause costly inter-family legal battles when someone’s last wishes are not made explicit.
Five at 55, the campaign that the party launched, is a collective of 15 elder law attorneys from around the country that specialize in gathering the documents and instructing people on how to complete them.
The lawyers and law firms involved in Five at 55 want people to be cognizant of the risks they take if they don’t get the five documents, Lehu said.
“Some people think you can go online and there’s wills you can get online—these documents need to be carefully supervised,” Lehu said. “Everybody’s situation is different. A lawyer needs to look at it and see what they need.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, less than a third of American adults, and fewer than 50 percent of nursing-home patients, have living wills.