Waukesha Estate Planning Lawyer

We all know that death is inevitable — most of us just don’t like thinking about it very much. Still, as responsible adults, we know that planning for our own deaths will make life less complicated and more secure for the loved ones we leave behind. The purpose of estate planning is to preserve our legacies and to smooth the transmission of our worldly possessions to those we most want to protect. At Riverwood Legal & Accounting Services, S.C., our caring and careful attorneys are dedicated to helping you create an estate plan that is well-structured and legally binding. We have the knowledge and insight to help you prepare for contingencies you may not have even considered.

Wills: The Last Word

A will is a document that names the individuals, groups, or entities that will inherit your property. It also names a guardian for your minor children (if any) and an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unable to serve. Another aspect of a carefully crafted will is a list of how you want your funeral or memorial handled. You should put into writing whether you want to be buried or cremated and where you want your body to be buried or your ashes to be spread. Your will can also provide relevant information concerning tax plans and trusts.

Our knowledgeable attorneys can help formulate your will in such a way that you avoid federal or state inheritance taxes; this can frequently be accomplished by setting up various types of trusts and naming dependable personal representatives (executors) and trustees to administer them.

The Benefits of Establishing Trusts

Besides lowering tax liability, there are several reasons for creating trusts. One is that a trust provides for money to be held for the benefit of an heir, but not distributed all at once. There are a number of situations in which you may not want your beneficiary to be able to use inherited wealth or property immediately after your death, such as if your heir is a minor, has special needs, or is known to be irresponsible.

While many people think of trusts as tools for the wealthy, regardless of the size of your estate, our attorneys can establish a trust for you to ensure that your loved ones will be protected — whether from the loss of needed benefits, from those who may infringe on their rights, or from their own reckless overspending. At Riverwood, our attorneys are adept at setting up all types of trusts, including:

Trusts for Minors

Trusts for minors are typically created to support children or grandchildren as they grow by providing them with money for education, medical expenses, and pursuits of goals the testator deems worthy. Often, trusts are established as an incentive for young heirs to attain a certain level of education or accomplish a particular goal at which time they will inherit money.

Special Needs Trusts

In many cases, individuals with special needs, whether physical or mental, are entitled to receive government benefits. Those who want to leave such a loved one money may feel constrained by the fact that the money they leave may interfere with the supplemental income of SSI or SSD, or with the Medicare or Medicaid on which the special needs individuals depend. By setting up a special needs trust, the benefits of the heirs are protected — they will have extra money available yet will still be able to collect their government benefits.

Marital Trusts

Marital trusts are designed to avoid taxes and to protect property, particularly in situations involving second marriages. By creating a marital trust, the testator ensures that money left to his or her spouse will go back to the children of the first marriage after the present spouse dies.

Revocable Living Trusts

The primary purposes of revocable living trusts are to avoid probate, protect privacy (wills are public documents), protect assets from creditors, and reduce state estate taxes.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts

Irrevocable life insurance trusts have several advantages, such as protecting your assets from “spend downs” in order for you to receive long-term care benefits, keeping your life insurance proceeds from being taxable, and protecting a disabled loved one from losing his or her benefits.

Spendthrift Trusts

In a surprisingly high number of cases, testators are concerned with the spending behavior of their heirs, wanting to keep those they love from spending their inheritance too quickly or recklessly. By putting an independent trustee in control of the money, a spendthrift trust protects the beneficiary from his or her own self-destructive behavior and from any predatory creditors.

Pet Trusts

For most people who have pets, the animals become part of the family. For this reason, many people, especially those who live alone, worry about what will happen if they predecease their beloved pets. Nonetheless,however human your pet may seem to you, the law regards a dog, cat, or other domesticated animal as “personal property.” Writing your pet’s care into your will is probably not the most effective way to ensure its ongoing care since probate takes time and the animal will require immediate care.

It is almost certainly more efficient to provide for your pet by creating a trust which goes into action immediately when you die or become disabled. Your trust for your pet not only names the trustee who will manage care and make decisions about the animal, but records any details about your pet’s health and well-being you care to include. There are two basic types of pet trusts: statutory pet trusts and traditional legal trusts. One of our knowledgeable attorneys will help you choose the one that best suits your needs.

Probate & Estate Administration

Probate is a term that confuses many people. Legally, probate is defined as the process of proving a will’s validity through judicial determination and then administering the estate according to its terms. Though many estates go through the probate process, if the decedent’s assets are placed in a carefully constructed trust, in all probability probate will not be necessary.

When probate is required, its cost and time consumption vary according to the size and complexity of the estate and the flexibility of the court’s schedule.

Non-Probate Assets

There are three types of property that do not go through probate: [1] property that is jointly owned by “tenants with right of survivorship” [2] retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries, such are IRAs and 401(k)s, and [3] bank accounts with “pay on death” (POD) or “in trust for” designations.

Costs and Duration of Probate

Probate is known to be expensive. One of the costs of probate is the payment of the personal representative for out-of-pocket expenses associated with management and disbursement of the estate, as well as a fee for his or her services (usually 2 percent of the value of the estate). Other fees associated with probate consist of accounting fees, appraisal costs, and court costs. These combined fees typically run high; they may add up to 3 to 5 percent of the total estate value. Simple probate in which there is no contest or litigation is usually resolved in 9 to 18 months.

Planning for Incapacity

One of the toughest parts of estate planning is recognizing the fact that you will not only eventually die, but that you may likely become incapacitated before your death. In order to save yourself and your loved ones unnecessary hardship, it is important to examine the ways in which you can prepare for your own potential diminished capabilities.

Durable Power of Attorney (POA)

Giving someone you trust durable power of attorney enables that person to carry on your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. The POA document greatly simplifies life for your loved ones if such a situation arises, since in its absence they will have to petition a court to appoint your guardian. The process of petitioning the court for guardianship is not only costly but extremely wearing emotionally.

Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy is the person you designate to make medical decisions on your behalf when and if you become unable to do so. Our attorneys can help you to formulate such a document with as much detail as you want. You can, for example, give particular instructions that must be followed by your proxy and by the healthcare professionals attending to you.

Living Will

Your Living Will is a document that spells out whether you want to be kept on life support if you become terminally ill. Your living will has nothing to do with the will that explains how you want your property distributed after your death. Rather, it explains precisely what medical care you want, or don’t want, to receive if you fall into an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state.Your living will can be a final gift to your loved ones who will know they are following your wishes rather than being forced to make heartbreaking decisions on their own.

HIPAA Authorization

Because the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits release of medical information even to those to whom you have given health care power of attorney, you should sign a HIPAA release form so your family won’t have to struggle to obtain knowledge concerning your health toward the end of your life.

Business Succession Planning

Assuming that you want your company to survive even when you can no longer manage it, you have to prepare for your potential illness, disability, retirement, or death. Whether you are the owner of a small business or the head of a large corporation, Riverwood can assist you in ensuring that your company makes a smooth transition in your absence by establishing a well-constructed business succession plan. There are several important advantages to having a workable succession plan, including:

  • Guaranteeing that desired succession will take place

  • Not having your business inherited by relatives or shareholders against your wishes

  • Having shares of the business divided proportionately as you see fit

  • Ensuring continuity of your methods of management and goals for the company

  • Making sure that cash flow continues unabated

  • Ensuring that all necessary taxes are paid

A business succession plan is a significant aspect of estate planning since without it the business you have worked so hard to have grow and thrive may be damaged and an important part of your legacy destroyed.

Why Riverwood Legal & Accounting Services, S.C. Is Your Best Choice

Riverwood is a well-respected law practice in southeastern Wisconsin, serving Waukesha, Milwaukee, Jefferson, Dodge, Washington, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, and Rock Counties.

Known for our comprehensive, cutting-edge knowledge of estate planning as well as for our personal integrity, our team is committed to providing you with individualized service. We will give you our undivided attention, adjusting our guidance to meet your particular needs. You can reach us through the contact form on our website or by calling  262.446.8145.