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Free Legal Workshop for Wives Offered at Library

By LYDIA BERGLAR
News Editor

Lookout Mountain resident and practicing attorney John Huisman is offering a free workshop at the Dade County Public Library on December 16th. Titled “Wise Wives Legal Workshop,” the session is to help married women prepare for the unexpected loss of a spouse.

Topics to be covered are asset transfer at death, bank accounts, house deeds/leases, vehicles, life insurance, and retirement plans/designated beneficiaries. Huisman noted that many of the steps he recommends to wives can be taken without accompanying legal fees.

A lifelong Dade County resident, Huisman graduated from Covenant College with a bachelors in English and History in 1998, and he graduated from University of Tennessee College of Law in 2004. He is licensed to practice law in Georgia and Tennessee. (While Alabama residents are welcome to join the workshop, Huisman is not licensed in Alabama, and he noted that he is not well versed in the specifics of Alabama law.)

Huisman has practiced law primarily in Chattanooga since 2004, with a current focus on estate planning and administration in probate court, and also elder law and special needs law. He and his family are active members at Grace Community Church in Trenton.

He said, “In the course of my practice, and several times over the last few years, we’ve had clients who were left in very tight spots financially when their husbands passed away. Sometimes it’s through deliberate acts, other times through inattention, or just failing to understand the structure of their finances.”

Watching women and families struggle through difficult situations that could easily be avoided with proper preparation pushed Huisman to host this workshop. He said that there are many provisions in the law to help wives (and families) set finances, accounts, and legal documents up well for worst case scenarios.

He explained that widows sometimes find themselves without clear or complete ownership of their homes and/or lack of access to checking accounts and assets, which leads to a probate process. He said, “It leaves them in a time crunch and a very significant financial crunch. Most of these situations are avoidable for a prepared couple.”

While it is possible for men to face these situations, Huisman finds that married women are the most susceptible. “For so long, the culture has been structured for a wife to be dependent in a way that is far less common for a husband to be dependent. Single women (and men) are not dependent on a spouse and tend to not be dependent on a parent or someone else. They tend to be in control of their own finances.”

Of the topics he will be speaking about, Huisman said wives almost always have one or two taken care of, but he wants women to be prepared in all areas. He said, “Lots of wives are the financial managers of the home, but they may not know some of the legal aspects. They’re not necessarily thinking of all of the what ifs, and any gaps might result in an unnecessary probate situation.”

Because the loss of a spouse is so unpleasant to think about, some couples avoid the topic, even when it comes to finances and practical details. Huisman said some folks are superstitious about talking about it, some just avoid it, and others simply don’t know what steps to take. He said, “I want to empower women to look into this. It may be something they don’t want to talk about, but this could be an opportunity to have some needed conversations.”

The workshop will start at 11 a.m. and last roughly an hour, and Huisman will be doing a free deed look up for interested Georgia and Tennessee attendees after the workshop.

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