Maybe you own a house that’s been in your family for several generations and you want to ensure it’s passed onto your children when you die. However, your children may still be minors by the time you die and your domestic partner would receive the house due to Wisconsin’s intestate inheritance laws. Would a will or a living trust be the right estate planning tool to make sure your children get the house when they’re old enough for the responsibility?
This is just one of many examples of common questions Wisconsin residents ask concerning estate planning. The right answer for one case may not be the right answer for another, though. Use LawInfo’s Wisconsin estate planning articles to learn about the legal ins and outs of securing your family’s future and to connect with a qualified local attorney.
A living trust is a method of managing and benefiting from your estate’s assets during your lifetime while ensuring they will be transferred to beneficiaries without needing probate upon your death. A trust can also be a tax benefit in some instances.
A living trust is created when you (the settlor) transfer ownership of assets to another person, who will act as a trustee. You can name yourself as a trustee, but Wisconsin law doesn’t allow you to be the sole trustee or the sole beneficiary of a living trust. The trustee manages your trust’s assets for during your lifetime and to your benefit, including paying out income or selling or buying real estate.
When you die, the trust’s assets will transfer to selected beneficiaries either immediately or at a future time, depending on your instructions.
A Wisconsin will can relieve your family of some of the estate management stresses when you die. You can ensure that the right people receive the assets you leave behind. You can also entrust the management of your final debts and taxes to a personal representative (sometimes called an “executor”). If you have minor children (under 18 years of age), you can ensure that they have a guardian should your spouse not survive your death.
A will must be typewritten and signed by you (the testator) and at least two witnesses to be valid in Wisconsin. Holographic (hand-written) and nuncupative (oral/”death bed”) wills are not legally recognized in the state. While the signature of a witness with an interest in the will doesn’t invalidate the will, Wisconsin law suggests that the signatures of two disinterested witnesses are also included.
There are a number of situations that may result in your inability to make decisions for medical, financial or property matters. By assigning the power of attorney to a trusted representative, you can ensure that your health and assets will be managed to your benefit—and according to your wishes, if you so choose.
There are two types of powers of attorney you can assign in Wisconsin: the medical power of attorney and the financial power of attorney. You can assign both powers of attorney to a single representative if you wish.
The medical power of attorney permits your representative (also known as your “health care agent”) to make healthcare decisions for you, such as allowing or refusing specific treatments. The financial power of attorney permits your representative to make financial decisions for you, such as purchasing or selling real estate or paying taxes and debts. Your representative is only allowed to act in good faith and in your best interest or within the parameters you can specify on your power of attorney form.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified estate planning lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local estate planning attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.