This article ran in the April 20-21, 2019 edition of the Richmond Register.
Article and photo by Taylor Six
Twenty employees of Madison Middle School went next door to Mount Pleasant, which houses Elder Law Guidance, to do the final signings of their wills that were free of charge by Attorney Scott Collins.
Due to the recent reform in legislature regarding pension systems that will affect teacher’s retirement plans, Collins decided to offer employees of Madison Middle School free wills. He also decided to help teachers because of the historical significance of the property relating specifically to education.
The home at Mount Pleasant was built by a man named George Brown, who traveled from London, England to Richmond to build a cotton mill.
“He didn’t go to New York and try his luck there, he went straight to Richmond,” Collins said.
In 1826, three years after he arrived, Brown built the house for his daughter as a wedding gift.
Years later during the Civil War, the Madison Middle School served as a hospital for union soldiers where students and teachers helped care for their injuries. Following that, the now middle school was the Madison Female Institute. In 1919, the school was leased to the Richmond City Schools Board of Education for a 99 year lease.
“From the beginning this property was revolved around education and teaching people things,” Collins said. “Society is only as strong as education and if we don’t respect teachers, and invest in education, society will crumble, and maybe that is what is happening right now.”
On March 11, Collins invited the 20 teachers chosen to receive the free wills to do interviews so that Collins’ office would be able to draft them up, a process that took about seven hours.
He required 30 days to be able to draft up and finalize each of the wills, and teachers were invited to come down and finally sign on Friday while on their planning period.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “Their response has been so much appreciation because a lot of the teacher’s are around middle-aged, and they haven’t thought about things like this right now.”
Collins said that he believes instead of threatening pensions, that Governor Matt Bevin should protect the pensions, especially if they aren’t being paid more.
“We are demoralizing education when we should be incentivizing it,” Cooper said. “We are seeing less and less people enter the profession.”
He hopes to do this event again in the fall, so that he can help other teachers at the school who didn’t have the chance to get to participate this time around. At some point, he would like to expand and have the ability to do all schools.