Articles Posted in Wills

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

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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Accuracy is important when making a will. You want to be as clear as possible when identifying your property and the people to whom you wish to leave it. For instance, if your will says, “I leave my son my car,” and you have two sons and three cars, you have not clearly expressed your wishes. Such ambiguity can ultimately lead to costly, unnecessary litigation between your family members as they struggle to understand what you meant.

No Estate Tax, No Worries?

Legal Description Helps Court Divide Property Between Niece, Nephew

Even when a court determines that your will was sufficiently clear, dissatisfied family members may still try contend otherwise. Recently, a Wisconsin state appeals court addressed just such a case. This lawsuit revolved around a will that contained a technically inaccurate, though legally sufficient, description of the deceased woman’s real estate. Continue reading

Creating a will and planning your estate is an incredibly important process that all adults need to think long and hard about, especially if they have children. Without a last will and testament, vital decisions about your estate will be left up to the courts or someone who might not be the best choice to oversee the process.

If you are married and believe you might not need a will because your spouse will naturally inherit the home and raise the children, you may not be taking into account some of the worst case scenarios. Should the unthinkable happen and both you and your spouse pass away with minor children, the decision over who will raise the children will be up to the courts if neither of you took the time to craft a will.

In that scenario, a court will need to choose a guardian to raise the children and oversee any assets that pass down. Letting a judge decide who will take care of your children can end up being an extremely emotional situation for some families, particularly if surviving family members disagree over who is best suited to take on the responsibility. If for no other reason than the sake of minor children, couples need to create a will spelling out who exactly will become their children’s guardian.

Are You Making Some of the Biggest Estate-Planning Mistakes?

There are some things we just don’t like to think about, much less speak about. The universal truth is we are all going to pass away one day. The legacy you leave can either simplify the process of dealing with your personal and financial property, or it can be a worrisome burden for those you leave behind.

Legacy planning is as important as your final wishes. So, as much as you avoid the topic, it can’t be — and shouldn’t be — ignored.

Over half of American adults and approximately 92 percent of adults under the age of 35 have not written a will. Most assume they do not need a will because any assets left behind will automatically be inherited by family members. Although assets may be distributed according to state intestacy laws, the process can be lengthy. With proper estate planning, however, you Designating a Guardian for Your Childrenmay be able to avoid placing any additional emotional or financial burden on your family after your death.

It is a good idea to create a will once you begin acquiring assets or start a family. In addition to designating how your assets will be distributed upon your death, your will designates an executor who will manage them until they are distributed. If you are a parent, you should also select a guardian who is likely to survive until your minor children reach the age of majority in the event both parents pass away.

Other useful estate planning documents include a durable power of attorney and a healthcare proxy. A durable power of attorney will allow your designee to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Similarly, a healthcare proxy allows a designee to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and cannot do so yourself. By designating a power of attorney or healthcare proxy, you may save your family from being required to take the matter to court in the midst of an unexpected healthcare crisis.

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The young often think of themselves as invincible in the sense that in their protected world, nothing bad can happen to them, especially with their parents around. Studies show that over 90% of adults under 35 do not have a will, providing reasons like:young-family

  • It’s not necessary.
  • It’s too complicated for me to deal with right now.
  • It’s too expensive.
  • My parents will take care of all that.
  • I won’t need it for a long time anyway.
  • It takes too much time

According to surveys done by USA Life Expectancy, adults aged 15 to 34 rarely die from medical causes but the figures are high for accidents, poisoning, suicide, homicide, and injuries. This suggests that for young adults, death often comes unexpectedly. Continue reading

Top 5 Universal Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

As the saying goes, “Death and taxes are something you simply can’t ignore.” Both are inevitable and although most people understand this phenomenon and in turn, prepare by paying their taxes on a quarterly or yearly basis and others set up their estates to ensure that their affairs are in order and their families are protected when they make their transition. For many, however, death is simply too scary, safeDepositBoxpainful and heart wrenching and many people choose to not even think about it. Most realize that they will eventually pass on and have a general mental vision of what they want to happen to their estate but, for one reason or another, they fail to write it down or even when they do, they don’t keep it regularly updated. In fact, studies as recent as the last quarter of 2015 show that only 34% of Americans have a drafted will, while 69% have considered it but delayed doing anything concrete. Continue reading

Traveling? The Eight Estate Planning Must-Dos before Departure

airplaneIn 2014, the World Health Organization revealed that globally, there were 1.24 million road deaths, 1,320 deaths from airplane crashes, 78 deaths from train crashes, and over 4,000 deaths from motorcycle accidents. Statistically, though, motorcycle travel is the most dangerous, while train and air travel are safer.

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estate planEstate planning is an important topic for everyone. Accidents and serious medical conditions can arise suddenly and it is important to be prepared. The need for effective end-of-life planning impacts everyone, even the rich and famous. Celebrities help highlight the need to prepare your Wisconsin estate planning documents.  Take for example Stieg Larsson, author of the highly successful Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Hollywood’s recent movie adaptation of the novel grossed more than $140 million. Unfortunately, Larsson died suddenly at age 50 from an unexpected heart attack. The author never prepared a living trust or will. Consequently, a lengthy legal battle over his $40 million estate ensued between his girlfriend of 32 years, with whom he shared a residence, and his family. Larsson’s estate was eventually awarded to his relatives.

Years later, Larsson’s family is still engaged in a court battle with his girlfriend over an unpublished novel that is allegedly in her possession. Larsson could have avoided the legal battle between his loved ones simply by preparing a living trust or will that clearly expressed how he wanted to divide his assets. By creating your Wisconsin living trust or will, you decide who receives your property and other assets upon your death. If you fail to provide for your loved ones in a trust or will, Wisconsin courts will distribute your estate according to Wisconsin intestacy laws, which may exclude certain people you would have wanted to include.

It is also crucial to create a health care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney well before any medical issues arise. If you are unexpectedly incapacitated, a health care power of attorney allows the individual you select to make any necessary medical decisions for you without heading to court. Making end-of-life medical and financial decisions can be tough on family members and often results in fighting. For example, although the late Etta James prepared a financial power of attorney that designated one of her sons as her decision-maker in 2008, her husband of 42 years challenged the document and claimed it was created after she became incompetent from dementia. Eventually, her husband and her sons reached an agreement regarding James’ care, but this does not always occur. You can protect yourself and your loved ones from legal battles by appointing medical and financial decision-makers well ahead of unexpected medical situations.