Every Genealogist Needs a Will by Frederick E. Moss, J.D., LL.M

From Federation of Genealogical Societies “FGS Delegate Digest”  Volume 13, No. 9, July 2006

Do you have a current will?  We may not all have extensive property or possessions to dispose of but there are other benefits that can be realized by expressing our desires through a last will and testament.  If you have minor children, you may suggest a more appropriate guardian than a court might appoint in the absence of your direction.  If you nominate an executor you can trust, you may reduce the expenses taken out of your estate by waiving bond and accounting.  These and other measures your attorney may suggest can insure that taxes and other charges are minimized that would otherwise reduce the estate available to your intended beneficiaries.

 Genealogists may have come to appreciate the value of wills as a source of information to future generations.  Lawyers will normally include the basic information declaring the testator’s name and domicile and will address the testator’s wishes for the disposition of his property to named beneficiaries.  Our legal training will not always direct our attention to the information-sharing and preservation opportunity that the drafting of a will provides.
  Discuss with your lawyer the possibility of including what I have called a three-generation declaration similar to the following:
 
 “I, Joseph Abraham Moss, was born the 23d day of January 1853 in Gordon County, Georgia the son of Johnson Moss and the former Sarah Caroline Love.  I married Charlotte Jane Roberson, the daughter of Thomas Howery Roberson and the former Emaline Lewis, on the 5th day of January 1873 in Crawford County, Arkansas.  Our son, Thomas Johnson Moss was born the 8th day of December 1875 in Crawford County, Arkansas.  Our son, James Monroe Moss was born the 26th day of September 1876 in Crawford County, Arkansas. Our daughter, Sarah Emaline Moss was born the 27th day of September 1878 in Crawford County, Arkansas.  Our daughter, Mary Inez Moss was born the 30th day of March 1880 in Crawford County, Arkansas. . . .”
 
There may be circumstances where it may be inappropriate to go into this level of detail and you should do so only with special care for insuring the accuracy of the information provided.  Although wills become public records when admitted to probate upon the death of the testator, triggering our sensitivities about publishing data on living individuals, the limited distribution these papers normally receive minimizes the risk of abuse.  
 
But if you do chose to do so, to paraphrase Proverbs, the genealogists among your great-grandchildren will rise up and call you blessed. 

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