Articles Posted in Probate

1353627_tullips sxchu website.jpgIn Wisconsin and other states, probate is the legal procedure through which a person’s assets are transferred after their death. The process is supervised by a court of law and designed to protect anyone with a legal interest in the deceased person’s estate. Probate is used to distribute a decedent’s assets not only to beneficiaries, but also to creditors and taxing authorities.

Any Wisconsin estate that exceeds $50,000 in value must go through the probate process unless the property is subject to certain exemptions. Some exemptions include assets that are titled jointly with another individual, life insurance proceeds, and any retirement funds where a beneficiary other than the deceased person’s estate was chosen. Additionally, assets placed in a revocable living trust are not subject to the probate process.

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A coherent strategy for the transfer of assets is, of course, crucial to the success of any estate plan. But the best-laid plans will fall far short of expectations if the trusts so carefully drafted are never properly funded.

TrustIf the trust is the car, the funding is the fuel. Without gas in the tank, that beautiful sedan with the precision engine is just metal on four wheels. It’s not going anywhere. The same holds true for an estate plan . Until it’s properly funded, the “plan” is just a plan – a plan that can’t be executed. Like the car with the needle on empty, it’s not going to take you anywhere.

With basic wills, most of the funding happens after death through the probate process. By contrast, a trust can – and should – be funded while the trust maker is still alive. With proper trust funding we can assure that the client’s designated assets will be governed by the terms of the trust agreement. Without it, assets not properly transferred to the trust will generally fall to probate.

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1353627_tullips sxchu website.jpgIn Wisconsin and other states, probate is the legal procedure through which a person’s assets are transferred after their death. The process is supervised by a court of law and designed to protect anyone with a legal interest in the deceased person’s estate. Probate is used to distribute a decedent’s assets not only to beneficiaries, but also to creditors and taxing authorities. Continue reading

No Estate Tax, No Worries?

Will I Owe Estate Tax?

You may have read recently a great deal about the debate regarding estate tax making it appear as if avoiding estate tax is the most important reason why individuals and couples need to prioritize estate planning. However, this is simply not the case. In fact, with the current federal estate tax exemption of $10.68 million for married couples and $5.43 million for individuals, estate tax is not an issue for the majority of individuals who need to begin the estate planning process.

Top Reasons Why You Need an Estate Plan

If avoiding estate tax is not a priority for you in the estate planning process, one or more of the following common reasons for estate planning probably apply in your case. Continue reading

What Should I Do When A Loved One Dies?Losing a loved one is an emotional and stressful time regardless of whether the death was expected or sudden. In many cases, family members are in a state of shock when a loved one dies. Many people describe the days after a loved one dies as “operating on auto pilot” as they go through the steps of arranging for the burial and planning a funeral. For some people, taking care of these details can help them feel as if they are in control during a time when they have no control over their emotions.

What Do I Do After the Funeral When a Loved One Dies?

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How to Stop Mail Addressed to a Deceased Person?

Even though we have moved into the electronic age, we still receive a significant amount of paper mail. For some, the amount of paper mail may be higher, especially for those who never embraced email or the internet as a means of communication. Therefore, one of your first steps as an executor for the probate estate is to contact the post office and submit a change of address form. You need to ensure that all of the deceased’s mail is coming to your address so that you can review bills, statements, etc. and take the appropriate measures according to the decedent’s Will or state law.

Unfortunately, along with the important pieces of mail that you receive, you will also receive junk mail, catalogs, magazines, and other items. At some point, you will want to stop mail from being delivered. Bills and statements typically end once the account is settled; however, junk mail will continue until you take steps to stop it.

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The Fight Over Robin Williams' Estate ContinuesIt has been a bit over a year since the tragic death of actor and comedian Robin Williams; however, the family has yet to settle their battle over his estate. Williams took his life in August of 2014 in his California home. The actor had a Will but his kids from a previous marriage and his current wife have been battling for a year over some of the terms contained in the Will.

Williams’ wife, Susan, petitioned the court to prevent his children from taking possession of the contents of their San Francisco Bay home. She claimed the items in the home should be excluded from the estate. William’s children responded to the petition claiming their stepmother was trying to change the terms of the trust to deprive them of their father’s personal belongings and memorabilia.

Now one year later, the parties have narrowed down the fight to about 300 items and an issue regarding a monetary distribution to Williams’ widow. In June, a judge gave the parties until July 29 to settle their differences and reach an agreement. It is not clear if the parties met that deadline yet or if they will be able to settle the dispute without court intervention.

How Can I Prevent My Family From Fighting Over My Estate?

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The Final Step in the Estate Planning Process – A Family MeetingIntheden


Possibly one of the most difficult steps in the estate planning process is the final step – to have a family meeting to discuss your wishes and instructions. Your attorney has advised you on what estate documents you need to accomplish your goals and you have executed those documents; however, your family needs to understand your wishes to avoid problems after your death or incapacitation. Having a revocable living trust, irrevocable trust, business succession plan, will, living will and/or a power of attorney are only the first steps in the estate planning process. Making sure your family knows what to do upon your death or incapacitation is the final step.

Organizing a family meeting that fosters an open, honest discussion is very important. Explaining your plans will help prevent confusion, hurt feelings and misunderstandings upon your death or incapacitation. This final step in the estate planning process is vital because it allows you to express your feelings and reasons for how you have established your estate. It also gives your family an opportunity to ask any questions they may have about your final wishes.

Minor Children as Beneficiariesmoney

No parent wants to think about leaving their minor children behind in the event of a tragedy; however, because terrible things do happen, it is better to be prepared. Estate planning ensures that your children will be taken care of in the event of your death. Estate planning also ensures that you are in control of the decisions regarding your child’s future. If you fail to plan, a stranger, who does not know anything about your children, will make the decision for you.

Naming a legal guardian is not sufficient to handle the financial aspect of an inheritance. Most parents believe that if they name a guardian for their children in their Will, this will be sufficient to provide for their children after their death. However, a guardian does not have access to your child’s inheritance.

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Caution: Writing Your Own Deed to Avoid Probate Can Lead to Unintended ConsequencesAssetProtection

One common way to avoid probate of real estate after the owner dies is to hold the title to the property in joint names with rights of survivorship with children or other beneficiaries. This is accomplished by adding the names of the children and certain legal terms to a new deed for the property and then recording it in the applicable public land records.
Many people believe that they do not need to pay an attorney to help them prepare and record the new deed. Instead, they think that a deed form can simply be downloaded from the internet or obtained from a book that can then be easily filled out and recorded. But deeds are in fact legal documents that must comply with state law in order to be valid. In addition, in most states, property will not pass to the other owners listed in a deed without probate unless certain specific legal terms are used in the deed.

How is a Defective Deed or an Invalid Deed Corrected?

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