A Last Will and Testament tells your friends and family what to do with your land and belongings after you pass on. If you take a little time now to plan you can save your loved one’s time and heartache in the future. The EBCI Legal Assistance Office can help you draft and sign your will at no cost to you. They have helped almost 300 people write wills since 2016.
Seven Reasons to Write a Will
- To take care of your loved ones. When you write a will, you gain peace of mind from knowing some of your affairs are in order. You are also helping those you love, in two ways: you are telling your loved ones, the court and Tribal Council who should inherit your land and belongings; and you are saving your loved ones from the emotional and practical difficulties that often arise when people die without a will and the law of intestate succession is applied to impose a generic solution on a unique family situation.
- To make sure your land goes to the person you want. Your land will probably be your biggest and most important asset. When you write a will, you get to decide who will inherit your land. If you don’t have a will, the law will answer that question and the answer might not reflect your wishes.
- To give special items to special people. You can list your most valued objects in your will and name who will inherit them.
- To name a guardian for your minor children. A will is the only way for you to name who will raise your children if you die when they are minors. If you don’t have a will designating a guardian for your minor children, it will be up to the Court to decide who will raise them.
- To make sure family members get what Tribal law allows. Tribal law gives first generation descendants and non-enrolled spouses of enrolled members certain rights to property when the enrolled member parent or spouse dies. Generally speaking, these rights have to be properly addressed in a will to be available. If they are not properly addressed they can be lost.
- To name your executor. When you write a will, you can name who you want to be the executor (also called personal representative) of your estate. That is the person who will handle your land and belongings after you pass and make sure your will is followed.
- It’s free! The EBCI Legal Assistance Office drafts wills for all enrolled members their spouses, first descendants, and tribal employees at no cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I get a will? Call the EBCI Legal Assistance Office (828) 359-7400 or come see us at the Ginger Lynn Welch building, just past the library.
- What should I bring to my appointment? Come as you are. But if you can, bring the names and birthdates of your loved ones’, information about your land and other assets, and a photo ID.
- What if I’m not sure? We can answer your questions and help you make a decision that makes the most sense for you and your family. Also, you can change your will at any time. If later on you change your mind about something in your will, we can help you change it in the law requires so the changes are legal and honored after you pass.
- What happens when someone dies without a will? It depends, but usually the Tribal law of intestate succession will apply to fill the void. The law of intestate succession will be applied to determine who your heirs are and what they should inherit.
- What if I just tell my family what I want? As long as everyone gets along and agrees on everything, that could work. However, family ties often unravel after someone dies. Memories change. People forget, ignore or twist what was said. Disagreements fester into bitter and long-lasting feuds. It won’t help to go to court and say “Mom said she wanted me to have the house.” Usually, someone’s spoken wishes aren’t enforceable in court.
- Will what we discuss in our meeting be private? Y Everything you tell us will be kept confidential. We cannot share your information without your permission.
- Will my will be private? You control who knows about your will. We encourage family members to communicate about their wills and other end of life issues, so long as they can do so in a loving, helpful way. At the same time, no one needs to know what’s in your will unless you want them to know.
- I think I already have a will but I can’t find it, or I can’t find a signed copy. What should I do? If you can’t find your will chances are your loved ones can’t find it either. In that case, you should get a new will. If you have a draft will that you haven’t signed, or if you have questions about whether it was signed properly, you should bring it in so we can review it with you. If you haven’t signed it in front of two witnesses and a notary, it’s probably not valid.
- I already have a will. Good! But we recommend that you get a new will if you have had a major life change since your will was written. A major life change could be a change in the make-up of your family, such as by divorce or death, or a major shift in your assets and liabilities. If your will is more than five years old, you may want to look at it and bring it in for us to review with you.
– EBCI Legal Assistance Office