U’Ren babies’ family encourages everyone to make a will, do estate planning

A local family is trying to turn their tragedy into an important lesson. In February, a Cottage Grove couple were hit while driving on Highway 30. Kirk U’Ren, 37, died on impact. His wife Jenni Steiner, 34, succumbed to head injuries a couple of weeks later. They left behind twin 1-year-olds Kayden and Grayson.

Their family said the tragedy was complicated by the fact that they did not have a will.

U’Ren and Steiner always had their hands full with Kayden and Grayson. They made sure they were taken care of every minute of every day.

“They were control freaks,” Geri U’Ren, Kirk’s mom, said. “Post-it notes everywhere, and lists of what to do.”

When they weren’t with Kayden and Grayson you could find the two heading to a University of Wisconsin-Madison men’s basketball game.

“It was supposed to be a great day and it just shows how fast something can change in a split second,” Geri U’Ren said.

On their way to the Kohl Center they were hit. Brandon Ballweg, 25, drove into them from the opposite lane killing them both. Ballweg is being held on tentative charges. Police believe he is responsible for Kirk and Jenni’s deaths.

Geri U’Ren was watching the twins when it happened.

“I saw the two officers out there so I knew it was bad news,” U’Ren said of the moment when police told her Kirk had died.

But U’Ren didn’t have much time to grieve. The parents who left nothing to chance in life, left everything unresolved in death, including who would take care of the boys.

“That was even on the last list that was on the counter: (To) make the will. And they never did get it done,” U’Ren said.

Estate attorney Nelson Donovan said unfortunately, the U’Rens situation is a common one.

“Sixty percent of Americans have no estate planning,” Donovan said. “People don’t want to go through the expense of planning, people don’t want to talk to attorneys, it’s just facing mortality, and a lot of people don’t want to do that in anyway shape or form.”

However, he said spending the time and money now you could save your loved ones in the future.

Donavan said people should make a will “so you don’t have friction in the family, so that you don’t have this conflict that occurs.”

There are a number of ways to create a will. Donovan recommends going to an estate lawyer, where a comprehensive plan will cost you $1,000 to $2,000. Online company LegalZoom offers a basic one for $69. You can download a Wisconsin specific one free online via docs.legis.wisconsin.gov.

“Whether it’s downloaded or not, it’s better than nothing,” he said.

It’s a step the U’Rens wish had been taken. Now both the U’Rens and Steiners are conflicted over what to do next.

“Jenni’s mother had suggested Chuck, Jenni’s brother. And I said ‘Well, Tasha, our daughter has got them right now and she would take the boys,'” U’Ren said of the back and forth between the two families.

The families will now go through mediation and court to reach a final decision. In the meantime, though, both families want to help you.

The family put together Jenni’s To Do List. The checklist is filled with simple reminders from giving someone an extra key to the house, to picking guardians for the kids. The family hopes the list will make things easier if you ever have to go through something similar.

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U’Ren babies’ family encourages everyone to make a will, do estate planning

Jenni’s To Do List

I gave _______ an extra key to my house.

I wrote down all my security codes and email addresses and _________ has a copy.

I made and labeled a file folder for all my insurance policies: Life, home, health, etc.

I made and labeled a file for my Social Security info, birth/marriage certificates and other important papers.

I have my financial info organized: checkbook, savings/retirement accounts, CDs, IRAs and included up-to-date beneficiaries.

I have informed _________ of my final wishes: cremation, burial or donation to science; funeral or memorial service and where it should be held.

I have a will made, or at least the info written down or shared with someone. I have included a durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney.

I have chosen guardians for my children.

I have chosen whether or not to be an organ donor.