At the pro bono clinic, law students met with clients and mapped out their objectives, drafted a series of legal instruments to carry out those objectives, reviewed documents with clients and oversaw the formal execution and witnessing of an estate plan.

Law Professor Thomas E. Simmons oversaw the students at the clinic and said “it’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the clinic.”

“The students not only learn about the various challenges associated with estate planning generally, but they also learn about the nuances and complexities of how to make testamentary gifts of Indian Trust Land under the federal American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA),” Simmons added. “This particular skill set is shared by very few attorneys in practice, and it’s especially important for attorney’s who are going to practice in South Dakota.”

Not only does the clinic benefit the students by providing them hands-on experience in estate planning, but it also benefits the clients by giving them comprehensive estate plans specifically drafted for their needs at no cost.

“The clients on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation were – as always – grateful and appreciative of the students, their interest, their attention, their listening skills and their eye for detail,” said Simmons.

One of the clinic’s clients, Anna One Star, said, “I enjoyed this process. I hope they hold more of these so people can take advantage.”

Another client, Robert Boyd, said, “This was a great help to our family.”

The clinic has thus far visited the Rosebud Sioux reservation, the Yankton Sioux reservation, the Lower Brule reservation and the Flandreau Sioux reservation.

“The Tribal Wills clinic is one of several clinical experiences available at the Knudson School of Law, but it is really unique,” said Simmons. “Only the Denver School of Law has a comparable program, and they often travel outside of the state of Colorado to conduct their clinics.

“We are able to stay right here in the state given the fact that South Dakota has nine federally recognized Indian reservations,” he added.

The Tribal Wills Clinic is carried out as part of a practicum course (Tribal Wills I and Tribal Wills II) offered in both the fall and spring semesters at the law school. In the traditional classroom component, students learn about the nuances of drafting and options within a typical estate plan. Students earn one credit hour for the course.

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