SRPMIC Legal Services Office: Will Process Workshop
As we try to live our lives to the fullest each day, the last thing many of us want to think about is writing a will. But it’s important to think about what will happen to our children, house, land and possessions we’ve worked hard for when we pass.
On July 31, Salt River Housing Services presented “Wills Workshop: Demystifying the Will-Making Process” at Salt River Police and Fire Substation 294. Twenty SRPMIC members attended. Salt River Legal Services staff attorney Sarah De Oliveira and will scrivener Rebecca Puentes used a fictional SRPMIC member named “Marge Simpson” to go through the will process from start to finish.
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members can work with the Legal Services Office to draw up a will for free. It is especially important that those who are landowners name beneficiaries to receive things like restricted lands, homesites, lease monies and other items. This will help ease the probate process and possible family disputes. The process featuring “Marge Simpson” showed the participants how easy it is to do their will when they are ready.
Making a Will with Legal Services
“Marge Simpson” set up an appointment to do her will with Legal Services. In her consultation, Marge told the staff about her family; she has a husband who is a non-tribal member (Homer) and three children (Bart, Lisa and Maggie). She provides her date of birth and tribal ID number, as well as her husband and children’s information. The eldest child, Bart, is 25; Marge has his birthdate but not his tribal ID number, which is okay, as the process will continue on with missing information. Lisa, 21, is the middle child, and Marge has her birthdate but not the tribal ID number. Finally, for Maggie, 10 years old, Marge has both her birthdate and tribal ID number. As mentioned before, even with missing birthdates or tribal ID numbers, the process can continue.
Marge wants to make sure her husband Homer can remain in their home after she passes and he can keep everything in the home except a few selected items that she wants to give to her children and a neighbor. When Homer also dies, she wants the house to go to Maggie. Marge has a turquoise necklace that she wants to give to Lisa and a pottery collection she wants to go to Maggie. Marge has a set of tools she wants to leave to her neighbor, Ned Flanders. After completing the will and later in the future Marge wins the lottery and buys a new car, she asks that her daughters split that equally.
As a landowner and homeowner, Marge receives two lease checks quarterly and has interest in the land where she resides. She wants Maggie to be the beneficiary for the homesite lease. Marge wants to make sure her husband is taken care of when she passes, so she gives Homer a life estate in all of her lands. A life estate ensures that Homer will have ownership of the land for the duration of his life. Marge also wants Homer to receive her IIM and last per capita check. When Homer dies, she wants one lease check to go to Lisa and the other to go to Maggie; Maggie will also receive the interest of the home. If one of the daughters should pass before she does, Marge wants the surviving daughter to take both properties.
Since Maggie is under age 18, Marge has to think about where her daughter will end up if she passes before Maggie is of legal age and in an unfortunate case where her father Homer can’t care for her. Marge appoints Lisa as Maggie’s guardian. If Lisa is not willing or not able to provide for Maggie, Marge chooses her sister Selma to become Maggie’s guardian.
Marge specifies her funeral arrangements, which are to be cremated with her clothes and other personal effects except for the items she wants to give to her children and neighbor and the furniture in the home. She also wants Homer to be in charge of making sure her will is done the way she wants; but because this will be a difficult time for her husband, Marge adds another person who can be in charge of making sure her will is done the way she wants: she names her daughter Lisa to be the executor.
Unfortunately, Marge did not leave anything to Bart due to his lifestyle at the time her will was created. Marge worried about Bart and hoped he would get his act together so someday she could include him in the will.
After learning what Marge wants in her will, the class participated in an exercise, filling out the intake form which takes the client’s information, family information, other heirs, list of restricted lands, residue for restricted lands, IIM monies, last per capita, personal property, and personal representative and backups.
The Legal Services staff then reviewed what the will would look like when finalized as a court document.
Make Your Will
SRPMIC Legal Services reminds everyone how important it is to have a will in place, and that drawing up a will is free for Community members and Community members’ spouses who are Native American with SRPMIC-enrolled children. As people age and family situations change, wills can always be updated in the future.
If you would like to start the process of creating a will, contact Legal Services at (480) 362-5670 to set up an appointment. Prior to the appointment, gather information on your family members, your beneficiaries, heirs and representatives and make a list of specific possessions you want to leave to your loved ones.