One 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
There 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
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
One 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
Living trusts are a flexible estate planning device that you can amend, modify, or revoke at any point during your lifetime. Of course, once you pass away, the terms of the trust become irrevocable. In other words, your successor trustee is bound by its terms and must administer the trust assets as you direct.
This also means that your choice of a successor trustee is critical in ensuring the successful administration of the trust. Many people create a trust because they fear certain family members gaining control of their estate. Having a strong trustee in place, which in some scenarios may even mean appointing a non-relative or corporate trustee, can help ensure that the trust ultimately fulfills your wishes. Continue reading
Probate administration is the legal process of distributing a deceased Wisconsin resident’s property in accordance with the terms of his or her will, or if there is no will, under the state’s intestacy laws. Probate is also when anyone to whom the deceased owed money can present claims for payment. This includes health care providers, credit card companies, and even family members of the deceased.
Court Dismisses Son’s “Frivolous” Lawsuits Against Mother’s Estat
Under Wisconsin law, a creditor may demand “formal proceedings” in probate court to resolve any disputed claim against the estate. Probate court is the proper place to resolve such issues. In other words, a family member or other creditor should not initiate civil litigation outside of the probate administration process.
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.
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
Planning for your burial is another important part of one’s estate that can often be overlooked when it comes time to planning other aspects like creating a last will and testament, assigning an executor, or creating various types of trusts to avoid tax implications of dividing an estate. However, if you have a family or need to observe certain religious burial practices, it is vitally important that you create an Authorization for Final Disposition to ensure that your final wishes are carried out at your burial.
An Authorization for Final Disposition allows individuals to make advance arrangements for their funeral viewing, suggest which religious observances should be followed, and suggest a source of funds to pay for the burial. The Authorization for Final Disposition also gives instructions on what type of funeral ceremony, memorial service, graveside service, or other last rite the individual may desire and inform family members whether a burial, cremation, or other disposition or donation of the remains is desired.
Without a signed Authorization for Disposition letter, Wisconsin law provides a hierarchy of surviving heirs who have the authority to make decisions on final burial arrangements. Wisconsin’s order of priority for burial procedures is as follows:
When it comes time to plan your estate, there are many way to pass on real estate to avoid paying costly expenses. One transfer method with tax advantages that may work for some folks is known as the estate deed. Essentially, an estate deed allows you to transfer your home to beneficiaries but still live there and avoid estate taxes and the probate process.
When you create a life estate, you will own the property along with whomever you designate as a beneficiary. The person living in the home is known as the “life tenant” and has exclusive rights to the property during his or her lifetime. The life tenant can be one person or individuals with joint tenancy, like a husband and wife. It is important to note that the life tenant has the responsibility to maintain the property, pay taxes, and retain insurance on the dwelling. Continue reading
A Wisconsin man who claims that notorious California cult leader Charles Manson, who orchestrated the gruesome Manson Family murders in the 1960s, was his biological grandfather recently filed paperwork challenging a will Manson allegedly wrote giving his estate to a long-time penpal. The legal moves could set up months of courtroom sparring between the two sides and potentially other biological heirs who Manson allegedly disinherited from his estate in the will produced by the California penpal.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge will first have to rule on the appropriate venue to hear the challenges over the estate, including who would be entitled to Manson’s property, money, image, and song catalogue. Manson died at a hospital in Kern County in November but was incarcerated in Corcoran State Prison in neighboring Kings County. His supposed heir believes Los Angeles to be the proper venue to hear the probate proceedings as Manson lived there before he was imprisoned for orchestrating the 1969 killings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and eight other people.
In the will produced by the man who befriended Manson, the deceased specifically disinherited two known sons and any other unknown children but left the penpal all the rights to the estate and his body. It is believed Manson specifically asked the willholder to find burial arrangements alternative to that of the cremation process California state prisons take if an inmate dies without a party to accept responsibility for the deceased’s burial.