From protecting your wealth for future generations to effectively planning for the unexpected, you and your family can trust our experienced estate planning attorneys in the following areas:
- Wills, Trusts and wealth preservation
- Protecting your children
- Powers of Attorney
- Heath care directives, living wills and physicians directives
- Elder Law
- Other areas
Wills, Trusts and Wealth Preservation
A Will is a written document that accomplishes three tasks:
1) it directs the distribution of your property after your death;
2) it states who will care for and distribute that property; and
3) it names someone to care for your minor children.
A Will is important because it allows you to:
• decide who gets your estate when you die;
• decide who should act as guardian if you die with young children;
• decide whether your beneficiaries receive their gifts from you outright or in trust; and
• select a personal representative who will have control over your assets and responsibility to pay bills and distribute your estate.
Well-drawn provisions reduce estate and inheritance taxes. You also may eliminate the cost of a bond for your personal representative by including a simple clause stating that no bond is required. Clear provisions for minor children help avoid an often costly and clumsy court-supervised guardianship.
A properly executed Will can be challenged in court for any of three reasons:
- the individual executing the Will was under duress or undue influence when the Will was made;
- the person was incompetent or unable to understand the results of the Will when it was made; or
- the Will was not executed with the proper formalities.
Either may occur if the only assets to be transferred are jointly owned property, individually owned life insurance or survivorship marital property, which is property to which either spouse has the right to full ownership upon the death of the other. Most jointly owned property and survivorship marital property are automatically transferred to the survivor. Insurance policies pay proceeds to the beneficiaries you choose.
Choice of Will
Before you decide you do not need a Will, remember that you may want to name alternate heirs in case you and the joint owner (often a spouse) die at the same time. You also should consider naming a guardian for your minor children, and you may be able to leave your heirs a larger estate by using a Will to save on taxes.
Your Will should be protected against theft and fire in a place where it will be found after your death. A safe deposit box is a common location.
Your personal representative should know the location of your Will.
Changing a Will
There are two ways to change a Will.
1) The first way simply is to execute a new Will; the new Will replaces all previous ones.
2) The second way is to write a supplement, called a codicil, which amends your existing Will. The codicil must be made with the same formalities required for executing the original Will.
A Living (inter vivos) Trust can be used to control your property during your lifetime; its terms may allow the trust to continue to control the property after your death. You would need to sign documents giving your property to the trust. For tax purposes, during your lifetime that property is generally treated the same as if you still owned it.
A living trust can have some advantages and some disadvantages.
+ On the positive side, property held in the trust may not be subject to probate procedures.
– On the other side, buying, handling and selling assets may be more cumbersome.
You may need to consult an attorney to understand the effect of a Living Trust on your property.
Protecting your Children
In the event you are unable to care for your minor children, a judge will appoint a person or persons to care for your children. With the assistance of our office, you can plan for this appointment process ahead of time by naming a trusted person to fulfill this important role.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney authorizes another person to act for you–that person is called your agent. A durable power of attorney allows your agent to act for you even if you become incompetent.
You can create a durable power that will be effective when you sign it, or when two physicians state, in writing, that you are not capable of handling your affairs. This second option is called a “springing” power of attorney.
Name only someone you trust absolutely.
Typically, the powers of attorney our firm provides are for financial, health-care and parenting related decisions.
Depending on what you say in the power of attorney document, your agent may be able to sign legal documents in your place, buy and sell real estate for you, pay your bills, and take other actions on your behalf.
What about health-care decisions? Wisconsin law allows you to create a durable power of attorney for health care. Under this law, you give your agent the authority to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to make them yourself.
Heath Care Directives, Living Wills and Physicians Directives
A properly drafted legal document can provide specific and tailored direction regarding life-ending care. Our firm provides thorough and complete legal advice and drafting services specifically tailored to your particular circumstances and needs.
Our firm recognizes the unique needs that older adults have in navigating our legal system. Allow our experience to help you, your parent, your spouse, or your sibling with regard to older adult needs.
Whether planning for the future or dealing with the death of a loved one, our firm prides itself with providing sensitive and confidential advising to individuals and families in navigating and avoiding probate court.
- Beneficiary designations
- Charitable giving
- Estate Tax avoidance
- Gifts and gifting agreements
- Marital property agreements
- Payable on Death accounts
- Personal Representatives
- Real estate titling
- Trusts: Disability
- Trusts: Irrevocable
- Trusts: Life Insurance
- Trusts: Revocable
This information is intended to be viewed as general information. Your individual situation or needs require consultation with the advice of an attorney. We are here to help you today.