asg-blue-600w

FishBiz Project

Financial and business tools for Alaska commercial seafood harvesters brought to you by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program

Creating a Will

Emmonak.  Photo credit Alaska Sea Grant.

When you're healthy and busy, creating a will probably feels like an inconvenient and expensive chore. But the fact that you've chosen a physically risky and demanding occupation, you own business assets, and you may have family obligations points to the importance of getting a will in place early in your career.

There are many ways to create wills-with the help of an attorney, a software program, or countless tutorials available online. There are a few items to consider specific to your Alaska fishing business and where you live.

A first step is to determine if you reside in a “community law” or a “common law” state. This significantly affects how your will is structured. Alaska is one of 10 states with “community property” laws (Washington is also); most other states operate under “common property” systems. In common property states, laws might only guarantee a one-third ownership of assets to the surviving spouse. On the other hand, in “community property” states like Alaska, all assets acquired after marriage (permits, boats), are equally owned between spouses, and the surviving spouse automatically receives these assets. Further, Alaska and Wisconsin are unique in that residents can designate separate property to be held in “community” (such as assets acquired before marriage or through individual inheritance).

The Alaska Court System Self-Help Probate website covers many topics in estate planning including what happens in Alaska if you die with or without a will, and excellent estate planning checklists.

The Commercial Limited Entry Commission has an FAQ sheet on state permit ownership and use in the event of the permit holder’s death during the season, dying without a will, etc.  Forms for transferring state permits can be found at www.cfec.state.ak.us/forms/estate.htm

Details on "rights of survivorship" for transferring federal fisheries quota in Alaska fisheries are outlined on page 4, item G of the NMFS Federal Fisheries Regulations.