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 may 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.
Creating a trust for your assets may be helpful in some instances. A trust may also provide you with more control than a traditional will can. The type of trust in which you place your assets will depend on your financial goals. For example, a trust can be established to make distributions based on the age of your children or be used to care for a special needs child. You can even set up a trust to provide the financial resources to care for a pet. Trusts may also be designed in such a way they are inaccessible to creditors.
It is essential to stay abreast of estate tax changes which may complicate or undermine your estate planning goals. Currently, $5.45 million in assets are exempt from federal estate taxes, but that number will index each year for inflation. Also, keep in mind each state handles estate taxes differently. Although Wisconsin does not currently charge an estate tax, it has in the past and this could change. Certain types of trusts such as a grantor retained annuity trust may also reduce your family’s estate tax obligations. Other avenues for reducing estate taxes include giving property or cash to family members over time and paying for educational or medical expenses. A qualified estate planning, wills, and trusts lawyer can explain your estate planning options.
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.
What Type of Estate and Tax Planning Do I Need to Do?, by Susan Johnston, U.S. News & World Report
The Estate Tax in Wisconsin, Brief 06-8, Wisconsin Briefs from the Legislative Reference Bureau