U legal service helps activated military students write wills

Rocky Thompson

University Student Legal Services has been helping students activated for military service write wills.

“In the wills we’ve seen, people have been instructed to get this in order,” said Mark Karon, one of two lawyers who help students make out wills at Student Legal Services.

National Guard Maj. Kevin Olson said all soldiers are required to have wills, and parents must fill out a family care plan for their children before they are mobilized.

Karon said there has been a slight increase in students, even those not in the military, making out wills.

Minnesota law requires that wills be formal documents, not oral or entirely handwritten. But some soldiers might be able to get around these state requirements.

Each state’s laws are different, Karon said, and if a soldier died in Iraq, the state would probably allow him to amend his will as he died.

“Because of their situation, they are exempted from one or more of the formalities usually required in making wills,” University law professor Judith T. Younger said.

She said soldiers or sailors might not have access to paper on the battlefield or at sea, so they can give oral wills to their comrades.

Minnesota law forbids this type of will, but Younger said different jurisdictions have conflicting laws, so Minnesota might allow it.

In most cases, when young people die without wills, their estates go first to their spouses and children. If they have no descendants, their estates go to their ascendants or brothers and sisters.

“One person came in with the conception that their property would go to the state without a will,” Karon said.

Approximately two-thirds of Americans have wills, and if people do not have any property or just want their estates to go to their families, they do not really require a will, Karon said.

One student at Student Legal Services asked for a will leaving everything to his parents, and Karon said he told the student his parents would get everything, whether he had a will or not.

“If you have a specific item to go to a specific individual, without a will, that won’t happen,” Karon said.

Olson said soldiers can give power of attorney and also make out living wills, in which they can ask to be taken off life support if they are incapable of deciding later.

“It’s part of our mobilization process Ö in a perfect world it’s not done right before deployment,” Olson said.

Soldiers are supposed to make out wills and update them annually, he said, but when they are told to prepare to be mobilized, they are required to have their affairs in order.

Rocky Thompson covers police and crime and welcomes comments at [email protected]