The Internet has made information more widely available than ever before. Online services also make it possible for many people to complete certain tasks and projects on their own–or at least, with a minimum of third-party assistance. Some companies have even gained popularity offering “do-it-yourself” legal services that purportedly allow you to make your own will or estate plan.

Is this really the best option for you and your family? While many people turn to DIY solutions because they think they are cheaper, estate planning is not the best place to look for discount providers who offer limited services. It is really not something you should try to do without professional assistance.

Keep this in mind: A will is not like a home renovation project. For example, let’s say you have a leaky faucet in your house. You might decide to try and fix it yourself, despite the fact you have no plumbing experience. In the worst-case scenario, you bust a pipe and need to call a plumber to deal with your flooded bathroom. If you make your own will and there is a problem with the document, odds are the mistake will not be discovered until after you are dead. At that point, the problem may not be fixable.

retirement savings

money retirement

During your lifetime, your retirement account has asset protection, but as soon as you pass that account to a loved one, that protection evaporates. This means one lawsuit and POOF! Your lifelong, hard-earned savings could be gone.

Fortunately, there is an answer. A special trust called a “Standalone Retirement Trust” (SRT) can protect inherited assets from your beneficiaries’ creditors. We’ll show you what we mean.

When your spouse, child, or other loved one inherits your retirement account, their creditors have the power to seize it and take it as their own.

If you’re like most people, you’re thinking of protecting your retirement account? Here are 5 reasons we think you’re right. Continue reading

PR-300x225Many Wisconsin residents are appointed to serve as the personal representative for a family member’s estate without fully understanding the duties and responsibilities of the position. Handling an estate is not necessarily difficult, but it does require a certain attention to detail and the ability to meet specific legal deadlines.

The Basics of Administering a Wisconsin Estate Continue reading

Bitcoin-300x161Estate planning is only effective if it includes all of your assets. In most cases this is not a big deal. Major assets like your home have a deed that clearly establishes legal title. Other liquid assets such as a brokerage account are maintained by a trusted third party that must follow certain regulatory standards.

How Cryptocurrencies Work Continue reading

family-business-300x200Family-owned businesses are often the most complex type of asset to deal with in estate planning. There are multiple stakeholders to consider. On the one hand, you may want your family to continue enjoying the benefits of owning the business. But you may also want to make sure the business continues to run in a professional manner.

Asking a Fiduciary to Take on Multiple Roles can Lead to Conflicts Continue reading

veterans-dayjpg-811a0cf798a38e8e-300x213The Veterans Administration has a program for wartime veterans and their widowed spouses to guarantee a minimum income for veterans or widow(er)s who qualify. If a veteran is 65 or older or is permanently or totally disabled for a reason or reasons that are unrelated to their military service and their income is below certain threshold they may be eligible to receive this pension benefit.

There are 3 levels of benefit, Basic, Housebound, and Aid & Attendance. Continue reading

signing-will-300x200Wills differ from most legal documents in that the person making the will, known in legal terms as the “testator,” is not around when the document is executed. This is why all states, including Wisconsin, require at least two people to witness the testator signing a will. If any dispute arises later over the validity of the will, the witnesses can testify in court as to the fact that the testator signed the document in question. Continue reading

divorce-300x225Changes in the law can affect your estate plan without you realizing it. This is one reason why it is a good idea to sit down with a Madison estate planning lawyer every few years to review your will, trust, and related documents.

Another reason you may need to revise your estate plan sooner rather than later is a dramatic change in your family situation, such as a divorce. Even when your divorce settlement dictates a particular division of property, your estate plan may still name your now ex-spouse as a beneficiary or agent in certain areas. Depending on how friendly–or unfriendly–your divorce was, you may want to change these designations. Continue reading

catIn an early episode of the long-running family sitcom “The Simpsons,” Homer and Marge are looking to buy their first home. They come across a house they like, except for the fact it is filled with cats. When Homer suggests removing the animals, a cheerful real estate agent explains, “Actually, according to the Will, the cats own the house. You’d be their tenants.” Continue reading

guardianship-1200x600-300x150One of the common goals of Wisconsin estate planning is to avoid the need for a guardianship. A guardian in this context refers to a person appointed by a judge to make financial or medical decisions for a legally incompetent adult. Ideally, the adult will already have valid powers of attorney and healthcare directives in place naming a person he or she trusts to make those decisions should the need arise. Continue reading