Waukesha Estate Planning with Wills Lawyer
Whether you are young and thinking of marrying and/or starting a family, or mature enough to be seriously considering retirement, you are at the right stage to engage in estate planning. At Riverwood Legal & Accounting Services, S.C., in southeastern Wisconsin, we are fully prepared to help you formulate a will that states your wishes clearly and cannot be misunderstood. We can even assist you in inserting a no-contest clause that, while not foolproof, will discourage interested parties from contesting your will. We are dedicated to helping you protect your loved ones and giving you the peace of mind you deserve. Our excellent estate planning lawyers successfully serve clients in Waukesha, Milwaukee, Jefferson, Dodge, Washington, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, and Rock Counties.
The Need for an Estate Planning Attorney
For most of us, the first thing we think about relative to estate planning is creating a will. Although some people consider a do-it-yourself approach to this project, this is extremely unwise. Just as surgeons are needed for operations and contractors are required for building home extensions, attorneys have to be involved in the creation of legal documents. Without a professional who has broad-range, detailed, current knowledge of estate planning laws in your state, you are likely to cause more problems for your loved ones than you solve.
Any irregularity is likely to bring up legal questions. While a skilled attorney can foresee such difficulties and prepare for such contingencies, you are unlikely to have this ability. Suppose, for example, that you want to disinherit your spouse or one of your children. Without proper legal guidance, you will likely leave behind a will that will be contested and family disputes that may take years to resolve. In the meantime, your assets may be used up in legal costs.
The Purpose of Wills
Wills are designed to make sure that, when you die, the assets you’ve accumulated over your lifetime will go to the people or entities you choose. Although it is difficult for most of us to accept that life is finite, we all want to ensure the protection of those we love when we are no longer here. Depending on the size of your estate, you may also want to leave a portion of your assets to a charity or institution or other entity.
Here is a list of some of the important decisions your estate planning attorney will help you to clarify in your will:
Who your personal representative (executor) will be
Who your beneficiaries will be
Who the guardian of any minor children will be
Who your alternate personal representative or guardian will be if those you have chosen aren’t available at the time of your death
Which trusts, if any, have been established to keep one or more beneficiaries from receiving a large sum of money all at once
Which trusts, if any, have been created to prevent your estate from having to pay certain estate state or federal inheritance taxes
Who you have appointed as trustees (administrators) of any trusts you have established
The matter of creating trusts is an important one. Your attorney may recommend setting up legal trusts for a variety of reasons, such as if you have minor children who are not yet ready to be tasked with managing money; if you have a special needs child or other loved one who may lose government benefits if he or she receives a large sum; or if you have a loved one who is unstable and overspends, invests recklessly, or gambles. Trusts are also established to make peace in some situations involving second marriages, laying down guidelines that leave assets to the present spouse, but make sure that children of the first marriage inherit when the current spouse dies.
Other Estate Planning Matters Covered in Wills
Although wills become accessible by the public after they have gone through the probate process, a process which ensures that they are legal, they often contain very personal wishes. As your attorney puts your will together, for example, he or she may include, at your request, answers to the following questions:
Do you want to be buried or cremated?
Where do you want to be buried or where do you want your ashes scattered?
Do you want your funeral or memorial to happen at a place you have chosen?
Do you want a particular type of ceremony or memorial?
Do you want to leave items of special sentimental or monetary value to particular individuals ( a scarf? a piano? a music box?)?
How to Finalize Your Will in Wisconsin
In order to complete the process of creating a will in Wisconsin, it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses each of whom must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind. It is best if the witnesses, who must also sign the document, are not “interested parties,” meaning they are not beneficiaries of the will. In Wisconsin, a will does not have to be notarized, but you should have it notarized to “self-prove” it. Self-proving means that the court will accept the document without having to first contact the witnesses. You should be aware that an oral (nuncupative) will is not legal in Wisconsin.
Laws regarding dying without a will (intestate) vary from state to state. In Wisconsin, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed to your closest relatives in approximately this order: spouse, children, grandchildren or parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles cousins, and then your spouse’s relatives. If the court is unable to find anyone living who is related to you by blood or marriage, your assets will go to the state.
There are many complications involved in the distribution of your estate if you die intestate which only an estate planning attorney is likely to be familiar with. If you have the misfortune to be dealing with the aftermath of a close relative who died intestate, our sophisticated lawyers can help to clarify the situation. If you find yourself in such a situation, it will soon be abundantly clear why you don’t want to leave your family in a similar state of confusion.
The highly competent attorneys at Riverwood Legal & Accounting Services, S.C., are ready and eager to assist you with your estate planning needs. Though we all know that life is unpredictable, it is sometimes uncomfortable to acknowledge this fact. Nonetheless, we ignore it at our own peril and the peril of those we care most about. Why not contact one of the competent, compassionate attorneys at Riverwood? We are dedicated to helping you put your affairs in order and your mind at rest. We can be reached through the convenient contact form on our website or by calling 262.446.8145.