#52ancestors Week 18 Where There’s a Will
Finding a will of an ancestor can tell a researcher many things such as names of children or assets of the deceased. Some wills I have come across are very complex and some quite simple. The last will I was lucky to find was the last will and testament of Bronislawa Pawlak, also known as Blanche Pawlak. Her will was dated November 5, 1966 and Blanche passed away on December 11, 1966, just over a month later. Blanche lived as a widow for 26 years after her husband, Stephan Pawlak, died on June 25, 1940.
It does seem usual to me to find a will written by a woman but perhaps Blanche wanted to have a will because Stephan died intestate (without a will). After Stephan’s death, Blanche had to hire a lawyer to petition the Milwaukee County Probate Court to prove her survivorship and right of ownership of their home on Becher Street in Milwaukee. According to the documents, Blanche had to first establish she was his legal wife: “The petitioner further represents that she, the widow and former wife, and STEPHAN PAWLAK, her husband, from the time of their marriages, up to and including the day of the death of STEPHAN PAWLAK, had lived together as husband and wife.“
Further, the document stated that Stephan “did not during his lifetime sell, transfer or convey or dispose of the … real estate or any part, parcel, or portion thereof, or any interest therein, and that BLANCHE PAWLAK, also known as BRONISLAWA PAWLAK, as such survivor, upon the death of said STEPHAN PAWLAK, became the sole owner of said premises, pursuant to said deed and conveyance.” To sum up the rest of the document, Blanche was granted a certificate from the County Court of Milwaukee County for the right of survivorship. This document was dated April 28, 1941, ten months and 3 days after Stephan’s death.
Because Blanche left a will, her wishes for dispersal of her estate were clearly laid out quite simply and efficiently. The will consisted of four parts with the first part directing the executor to pay all her debts, funeral expenses and other expenses and to see that a monument is erected over her grave that is similar to the one on Stephan’s grave.
The second part of Blanche’s will bequeaths all the rest of her estate, real and personal, in equal shares to her heirs. Each of these heirs received 1/6 th and this included sons Stanley, Edward, Sigmund and Charles, daughter Clara and daughter-in-law Agnes Pawlak, widow of late son Joseph. If Agnes were to predecease Blanche, then her share would have been divided equally between Agnes’ children.
The third part of the will names Clara Berndt (daughter) as sole executrix unless she was unable to serve, then son Stanley would have been the executor. If Stanley was unable then son Edward would serve. In the fourth or last part of the will, Blanche authorized the executor to sell, mortgage, convey, lease or otherwise dispose of her property and personal estate as soon as it was convenient after her death.
Clara, as executrix of Blanche’s estate, sold the home on 2032 West Becher Street in Milwaukee to Agnes Pawlak (widow of son Joseph), Alfred J Pawlak and Marilyn L. Pawlak, his wife on March 10, 1967. The sales price was $10,000. The proceeds were used to pay Blanche’s final expenses which included $1295 for Max A Sass Funeral Home, $195 for the Quarry Monument Co., $84.50 for doctors and St. Francis Hospital, and $630 for Attorneys fees. Leaving a will clearly outlined Blanche’s wishes for her heirs!