Estate planning is usually low on a person’s list of priorities until a life event occurs that forces the person to contemplate their own death. The most common life events that cause someone to begin to think about estate planning is getting married, having children, amassing a large asset or amount of money, or the death of a parent, relative, or close friend.
One question about estate planning that our attorneys are asked quite often is, “Why do I need a Will if I do not have children?” Our answer, “Because everyone needs a Will and a comprehensive estate plan regardless of whether they have children, are single or married, or have a little or a lot.” Failing to have a Will results in the state of Wisconsin deciding what happens to your property upon your death. Furthermore, failing to prepare for your incapacity prior to death may result in your healthcare wishes not being honored if you cannot speak for yourself.
Therefore, regardless of whether you have kids, you need the same three basic estate planning documents that every person needs to address your finances, your health, and your probate estate.
- Power of Attorney – A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a trusted person to handle your finances if you are unable to do so for yourself. A Will does not become effective until death; therefore, if you become incapacitated for any reason prior to death, you want a trusted person to manage your finances. Without a Power of Attorney, someone must petition the court to be appointed as your agent. That person will not have the ability to manage your without the restrictions placed on him or her by the court. The court may not agree with your agent as to what your wishes are regarding your finances.
- Advance Directive for Healthcare – This is also commonly referred to as a Living Will or a Health Care Power of Attorney. Regardless of the name, this estate document allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This can be very important if you have strong opinions as to what type of life-extending treatments (i.e. feeding tube, incubator, etc.) you want administered if medical staff determine that you would not survive on your own without these treatments. Without a directive, your wishes may not be honored if you become incapacitated rendering you unable to make health care decisions on your behalf.
- Last Will and Testament – If you do not have children, you still need a Will to direct how your estate should be distributed upon your death. If you die without a Will, the state decides how your assets are distributed under Wisconsin’s intestate laws. Without a Will, you cannot bequeath part of your estate to a friend, your college, a charity, or arrange to provide for the care of a beloved pet. The state will decide who receives your property and in what percentage.
Begin Estate Planning Now
Do not wait until you have children, assets, or another life event that forces you to consider serious issues regarding your finances, health care, and estate. Begin your estate planning now so that your friends and family will not need to guess your wishes and will not be constrained by state laws.
Contact a Madison Estate Planning Attorney
The estate lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. Our dedicated attorneys will even make house calls if you are unable to come to our office.
Contact our office by calling (608) 268-5751 to schedule a consultation or use our online contact form.
Image credit: Ken Mayer