Let’s Get Legal: Getting Started

I, Gail L. Palmer, being of sound mind and body… 

…do hereby inform you I am not an attorney, despite the title of this blog.  What I am is a woman with legal questions.  More specifically, I am a lesbian with legal questions.  And the fact that I am a lesbian plays a significant role in the answers I seek.  So please join me every Thursday as I share what I uncover and discover in the process.  My hope is that I will inspire you to ask your own questions and seek your own answers – and maybe make you laugh a little along the way.

Let’s Get Legal begins here… 

Regardless of if you are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, queer, straight, in a relationship, currently single, an aging parent, a sibling, a partner, or any other self-defining term… every adult should have a will.

Question: What is a will and why should I have one?

Generally speaking, a will is a legal document you use to name the person or persons who will receive your property when you die.

Ugh – death!  But whether you want to think about it or not, death is not just for old people.  So if you have real property (land) or personal property (car, jewelry, money) you want to give to a specific person you simply must have a will.  Otherwise, the state you live in will decide who gets what in accordance with the intestate laws of your state.

Question: What are intestate laws and why do I care?

These were new words for me, but basically it’s the body of laws that determine who will get your stuff if you die without a will.  As for why you should care (aside from the fact that dying without a will is just plain rude to your loved ones who already have enough to deal with now that you’re dead) well… maybe you don’t. Maybe you actually like the idea of letting the state you live in determine who qualifies as your next of kin.

Question: What happens if I die without a will in Alaska?

In Alaska, your property will be distributed to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and your children.  If you have neither, it may pass to your grandchildren or parents or siblings… and on and on through your family tree until the court exhausts itself.  And if they determine you have no relatives by blood or marriage they take your property.  But let us not forget that marriage, in the state of Alaska, may only exist between one man and one women thanks to a little thing called DOMA – but that’s a topic for another post in Let’s Get Legal so let’s just keep going on this subject for now.

If you are in a same-sex relationship, regardless of whether you said ‘I Do’ while traveling through Canada last summer or recently traveled to the Empire State Building to get married on New Year’s Eve, your spouse has no legal connection to you after your death.  In fact, it puts all blood relations and then the state ahead of your spouse in terms of your assets – unless you take the time to protect them.

But you don’t have to be worried about a same-sex spouse to want or need to create a will.  I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said it’s just plain rude to die without a will – because it is.  Everyone you leave behind will already have enough to deal with without adding a missing will to an already painful situation.  So what are you waiting for?

Question: Do I need a lawyer, notary or both to create a will in Alaska?

Technically speaking, you can make a will in Alaska without a lawyer or a notary. But if you’re going to the trouble of protecting your loved ones, then take a few extra moments and make things as easy as possible for them.  Get your will notarized!

Why notarized? Alaska is a state that allows you to make your will self-proving to speed up the probate process.  When your will is self-proving the court can accept it without first contacting both of your witnesses.   And what if you die during fishing season?  In all seriousness, what if your witnesses move or worse, die before you?  Get your will notarized!

As for needing or not needing a lawyer, let me just say that it’s always good advice to consult an attorney in legal matters.  And your will is just the beginning of a series of estate planning documents you’ll want to consider, but we’ll get to the other documents next week.

And let me reiterate something I said at the beginning of this post.  I am not an attorney.  I’m just a lesbian with legal questions, a keyboard, and good intentions hoping to inspire you to act now, before it’s too late. 

And remember, the first step in making sure you and your loved ones are protected is to know the laws of your state – and who better to know them than an attorney.  I consulted a few while writing this post and they had a few more pieces of advice.

Other Good Advice

Roslyn A. Quarto, Esq. recommends reviewing your will at regular intervals, such as every five years, or whenever your status changes.  This includes moving from one state to another because a will in Alaska may be a worthless piece of paper in another state like New York or New Jersey where she practices law.

And here’s another piece of advice she’d like you to know.  Do not keep your legal documents in your own safe deposit box.  Access to this will be frozen upon your death so you want to keep them at home in a fire-proof box, or with your executor, unless they are a person you are likely to be with should an accident happen.

Now I have an easy question for you dear reader.  Do you have a will?  And if not, what are you waiting for?

Search the Web Yourself 

About the Author

Gail L. Palmer is a former resident of Anchorage, Alaska who still works (and plays) in the Last Frontier. Formerly a full-time Event Producer, Gail opted to reduce her hours, move to the Jersey Shore, and fulfill her dream of writing. She is also a Slam Poet who plays life by her own set of rules.  She invites you to read more about her rules and her Slammin’ Adventures.


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