“Intestate” is the term used to describe the estate of someone who dies without a will or a trust. Each state has laws called “intestacy laws” that govern how probate assets are distributed, if someone dies without having a will, at minimum. These laws establish the inheritance hierarchy based on a person’s family structure. As explained in The Daily News’ article “’Are You My Heir?’-Who Inherits When You Die Without a Will,” all of your assets will pass to your next of kin, also known as your “heirs-at-law” or heirs in accordance to the state’s laws of intestacy. Continue reading
Do not buy into the myth that estate planning is only relevant for wealthy individuals who need tax planning. A comprehensive estate plan is an easy way to make sure your wishes are followed should you become incapacitated, and upon your death.
One of an estate planning attorney’s main responsibilities is ensuring that clients understand the importance of addressing these matters before they become an issue, reports the New Jersey Herald in the article “The importance of putting plans in writing.”
The Queen of Soul did not have an estate plan, a will or a trust when she died from pancreatic cancer recently, according to news reports. That’s especially surprising, said Investment News in the article “Aretha Franklin estate echoes planning problems of Prince,” since her estate has already been valued at as much as $80 million.
Franklin was not married, so the estate will pass to her four children. It’s similar to the situation that occurred when Prince died unmarried and without a will in 2016.
Had she been married her estate would have passed tax-free to a spouse and there would have been planning opportunities available at that time. Continue reading
You might think of a trust as something for wealthy people who want to dispose of high-end assets, like art work, collectible cars or businesses. However, just like everyone needs an estate plan regardless of their asset level, says The New York Times in the article, “Life After Death? Here’s Why You Should Have a Trust,” many people who are not wealthy could benefit from having a trust. Continue reading
Ensuring that your property is appropriately managed and disbursed upon your incapacity or death, is no longer limited to physical or financial property. Your estate plan now needs to include digital assets, the online accounts that are in your name, says the Journal of Financial Planning in the article “Don’t Forget Digital Assets in Estate Planning.”
If your will or trust hasn’t been updated in the past few years, chances are good it has no provision for your digital assets. This could create a larger problem than you’d think. Bank accounts, investment accounts and small business records stored in the cloud may not be accessible to heirs. That doesn’t even include sentimental items: treasured photos and videos that never made it to paper or your computer’s hard drive. Continue reading
There are some clear benefits to storing your will and documents online. You and your spouse (or other authorized people) can access them anytime, from anywhere. We are used to putting our lives online. However, there are also some downsides to consider before doing so, according to a helpful article from CNBC titled “Here’s what you need to know before storing your will online.”
It’s good to have all your important documents in one place. Make sure that the people who will need access, such as executors, know that you’ve done so or the cloud storage may well be pointless.
Online storage can also facilitate family conversations about estate planning. Even tech savvy adult children who scoff at parents who don’t engage in social media, will be impressed by a decision to go digital.
However, there are pitfalls. Continue reading
If you are young and do not currently have a lot of assets, you might think you can get by without an estate plan. The flaw in that reasoning is that you can never be sure how much your future estate will actually be worth. For example, even if you do not own much now, what if you die in a car accident caused by a drunk driver and your estate wins a multi-million dollar personal injury judgment? Who gets that money if you never bothered to make a will?
Milwaukee Parents Fight Over Litigation Proceeds of Son’s Estate Continue reading
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.
Here are some other things to consider before opting for a DIY estate planning service: Continue reading
Wills 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
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