Bad-Trustee-150x150Although trusts are not difficult to create, they do require a certain degree of administration. If you are presently serving as a trustee, particularly of an irrevocable trust, you must take care to faithfully execute the trust instrument’s instructions. If you do need assistance with trust administration, you should not hesitate to contact a qualified Madison probate and trust administration attorney for assistance.

Wisconsin Court Orders Ex-Trustee to Pay Sister $100,000

Recently, a Wisconsin appeals court affirmed an order removing the trustee of an irrevocable trust precisely because he failed to follow the trust’s instructions. The trust was first established over 20 years ago. The person who made the trust, known in legal terms as the settlor, operated a bed and breakfast in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The trust owned a 30% interest in the limited partnership that actually owned the property. Continue reading

how-to-secure-a-mortgage-after-bankruptcy-slideshow-300x120One of the biggest estate planning concerns that we hear about from parents is that they are reluctant to leave a potentially sizable inheritance to their financially irresponsible adult children. This raises an interesting question that you probably have not considered in connection with your own estate plan: What happens if my child files for bankruptcy just before I die? Will my estate be forced to pay off my son or daughter’s creditors? Continue reading

trust-300x200Trust is a critical part of estate planning, and we are not talking about revocable living trusts. We are talking about the fact that you need to entrust another person–i.e. the personal representative or executor of your estate–to manage your affairs after you die. Your choice of an executor is often more critical than deciding how to distribute your property. After all, if you select someone who is untrustworthy, there is no guarantee that your estate will be administered in accordance with your wishes. Continue reading

tod-300x168There are many estate planning tools available in Wisconsin to individuals who want to transfer property without going through the formal probate process. One such tool is a transfer on death (TOD) deed. As the name suggests, this is a deed to real property that names a beneficiary who becomes owner upon the original owner’s death.

A TOD deed allows the real property to pass outside of probate, similar to how a named beneficiary receives a retirement account or other asset with a payable-on-death beneficiary designation. Keep in mind, however, that the beneficiary has no ownership rights under a TOD deed until the owner dies. The owner is free to amend or revoke a TOD deed at any point during his or her lifetime. Continue reading

dollar-security-150x150One of the more complicated aspects of estate planning is that while probate, or the process of transferring property upon a person’s death, is normally controlled by Wisconsin state law, most retirement plans are governed by federal law, specifically the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA). The ERISA “preempts” or overrides state law to the extent that there is a conflict between the two. Continue reading

reviewing-document-300x300Most people only think about estate planning in terms of their personal assets, but what if you own or co-own a business? How does death affect the business? More importantly, what kind of business succession planning do you have in place to deal with your sudden or unexpected death?

Perhaps not surprisingly, most Wisconsin business owners have not done any succession planning. Some people assume the business simply dies with them. Depending on how you structured your business, however, that is not necessarily true. Even if the business is simply you, and you never created any separate legal entity, there will inevitably be certain matters that need to be wound down upon your death.

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trustee-300x160When you are creating a will or revocable trust as part of your estate plan, you need to think carefully before selecting someone to act as a personal representative or trustee. Many people just go with their nearest relative, such as a spouse or eldest child, but a fiduciary’s role is not ceremonial. An executor or trustee must be financially responsible and demonstrate the willingness to comply with legal deadlines and court orders. Failure to do so can lead to a substantial delay in administering your estate or trust.

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Probate administration in Wisconsin requires the personal representative (executor) of an estate to complete several steps before winding up the final affairs of the deceased. One critical step is filing an inventory with the probate court. The inventory, as the name suggests, is a listing of all property owned by the probate estate. Continue reading

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For many Wisconsin residents, administering a parent or relative’s estate may be their first extended interaction with the legal system. If you find yourself in the position of a first-time personal representative or executor, you may wonder if it is even necessary to hire an experienced probate and trust administration lawyer. After all, if your relative’s estate only has a few assets–maybe nothing more than a house and a checking account–you can surely handle everything on your own and spare the expense of a lawyer, right?

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1222896_coins-sxchu-username-iproleOne reason many Wisconsin residents create a trust is to reduce their estate’s potential estate tax liability. For example, with a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust, married couples can maximize the potential estate tax deduction for their combined property. Basically, the way a QTIP trust works is that the first spouse to die leaves a “life estate” in his or her property to the surviving spouse. This means the surviving spouse may continue to use and receive income from the deceased spouse’s property. The property itself remains in trust until the second spouse’s death, at which time the trust assets are distributed to a final beneficiary, such as the couple’s children.

Wisconsin Court Holds Father’s Will Did Not Create QTIP

Creating a QTIP trust is not necessarily difficult, but it is something that must be done carefully to ensure there is no confusion as to your intentions. If you did not clearly intend to create a trust, do not expect a judge to make one for you after you die just to help your estate save money on its estate tax bill. The law is not that generous.

Here is a recent case in point. Four adult children attempted to sue the law firm that handled their father’s estate more than 30 years ago for malpractice. The children maintained that their father had intended to create a QTIP trust and the attorneys failed to do so after his death, eventually leaving the children with an estate tax bill of over $260,000. Continue reading