Remarriage and Estate Planning

Marriage is always a time for celebration. However, in the event of a remarriage, it is imperative that you and your future spouse also focus on the less romantic process of redrafting your estate plans. Wisconsin is a Marital Property state, which means your marriage will affect the ownership of all of your assets, regardless of how the asset is titled. This change in ownership will affect not only the division of your assets in the event of a divorce, but also the distribution of your assets upon your death. In many instances it will result in a distribution that is substantially different from what you intended, because under Marital Property law the surviving spouse has the right to take a large percentage of the estate, regardless of what the deceased spouse’s Will may state.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Wisconsin’s Marital Property Law

Marital-Property-Isabell-Mueller-Estate-Attorney

Wisconsin’s marital property law became effective on January 1, 1986. The law was enacted to formally recognize that both spouses contribute to a marriage even though only one may earn an income. Under the marital property law, whatever the couple acquires during the marriage belongs to them equally, regardless of whose name is on the title. This applies not only to earned income, but also unearned income such as interest and dividends. For example, if one spouse has a 401(k), and over time the account’s value grows as a result of additional contributions, as well as interest and dividends generated by the securities held in the account, the other spouse has an equal marital interest in the account even though it is actually titled only in the contributing spouse’s name. It is important to note, however, that marital property law applies to a couple’s debt and liabilities in the same manner as it does their property.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

How do your assets get to your loved ones following your death?

Everyone wants to take care of their loved ones to the greatest extent possible in the event of their own death. However, ensuring that your estate goes to your beneficiaries in the manner you intended is not as simple as it may seem. This process is known as “estate planning.” There are a number of strategies and tools in the estate planning process and no “one size fits all” approach. The following is a brief discussion of the various means by which the individual assets which make up your estate may transfer to your beneficiaries.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Estate Planning: Where do I begin?

Whatever the size of your estate, it is important to plan. Without a proper estate plan, the legal and financial issues raised by your death, or your incapacity, will be more difficult and expensive for your loved ones. Unfortunately, most of us procrastinate because thinking about, and then actively planning for, death or disability is an unpleasant prospect. It is far easier to focus on the more immediate concerns in our lives. However, while estate planning may seem like a daunting task, it need not be. As with almost everything else, getting started is the hardest part.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

There are many unique issues for unmarried couples to consider in the estate planning process. Because there is no “legal” relationship between the parties, it is critically important that these issues be addressed before problems arise. If left too late, you run the risk that your significant other may have no rights and could end up being entirely removed from your life, both personally and financially. So what documents should you put in place?

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Estate Planning for Singles

One of the biggest misconceptions about estate planning is that it is only important for those who are married. In fact, estate planning is just as crucial for single individuals. With married couples, if one spouse becomes incapacitated and does not have power of attorney documents in place, there is still the natural assumption that the Court will appoint other spouse as guardian. It is a more complicated situation when a single individual becomes incapacitated. By law, the individual’s parents are the next-of-kin, but they may not be in a position to take on that additional responsibility. Perhaps the incapacitated individual would have preferred someone closer in age, such as a sibling. However, neither the family, nor the Court would have any way of knowing this. For this reason it is perhaps even more important for singles to execute financial and health care powers of attorney than for married individuals.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Estate Planning for Parents of Young Children

Most of us never think about dying. But sadly, not all parents live long enough to see their children grow up. Sometimes the unthinkable occurs. If you pass away, what will happen to your children? Who will raise them? If one parent dies, the surviving parent will usually have custody of the minor children as the natural guardian. However, if both parents pass away, then a Court will decide who will become guardian. In its assessment, the Court will look first to the Last Will and Testament of the deceased parent(s), the document in which parents name their choice for guardian. It is important to understand, however, that although the parents have nominated the guardian in the Will, only a Court can actually appoint a guardian. The Court usually confirms the nomination of the parents with the understanding that this decision was not made lightly by the parents. There are some instances, however, when the Court, based on additional information and recommendations by family and professionals, appoints someone other than the parents’ first choice. For this reason it is important to nominate at least one alternate choice for guardian in the Will.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Authorization for Final Disposition

The Authorization for Final Disposition is a document which allows you to designate a representative who will have the legal authority to make decisions regarding your funeral arrangements and the disposition of your body. This document is still fairly new in the State of Wisconsin. Absent a signed Authorization, Wisconsin law designates who has such authority. The law establishes the following order of priority: 1) surviving spouse or domestic partner; 2) surviving child or children; 3) surviving parent or parents; 4) surviving sibling or siblings; 5) lineal descendants in the priority order spelled out in the Wisconsin Statutes; 6) the guardian at the time of death; and 7) any other person willing to control the funeral and final disposition who attests in writing that they have made a good faith effort and could not locate any of the persons in the above priority list.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Durable Powers of Attorney

The first two building blocks of a good estate plan are the General Durable Power of Attorney, also referred to as a financial power of attorney, and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Every adult should have both. As an adult, you are the only one who can make decisions with regard to your own finances and health care. There are only two means by which someone else could obtain the authority to make those decisions for you. The first is through the use of the two powers of attorney. With these documents, you yourself appoint “agents,” one for your finances and one for your health care. These individuals then have the legal authority to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. Having both of these documents is just as important if you are married as it is if you are single. In the State of Wisconsin, although your spouse may retain access to many of your jointly titled assets, he or she does not have the legal right to make decisions for you, regardless how long you have been married.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Estate Planning FAQs

1. What is estate planning?

Estate planning is a process. It involves people—your family, other individuals and, in many cases, charitable organizations of your choice. It also involves your assets (your property) and the various forms of ownership and title that those assets may take. And it addresses your future needs in case you ever become unable to care for yourself.

Through estate planning, you can determine:

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The Benefits of Creating a Trust to Hold a Child’s Inheritance

Providing for children in the event parents die prematurely takes more than choosing a guardian to raise them. Parents must also consider what will happen to any money or property their children will inherit. Children under the age of eighteen cannot directly inherit more than a small amount of money. With assets and life insurance, most parents will leave their children a great deal more than that. If the parents have made no provisions, a guardian will be appointed to manage the assets only until the child turns eighteen, at which point all the remaining assets are turned over the child. Creating a trust to hold the inheritance instead allows parents significantly more control over how the inheritance is spent for their children.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Living Will vs. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

In the State of Wisconsin there are two separate health care advance directives:  the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Declaration to Physicians (commonly called the Living Will). As advance directives, both are designed to provide direction regarding your health care and treatment in the event that you are no longer able to make your wishes known. Beyond that, however, the two are very different documents.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Memorandum of Tangible Personal Property

One of the many things that you will need to consider when preparing your estate plan is how you would like your personal effects to be distributed. Almost everyone has an item of special meaning that they would like distributed to a certain person. Traditionally, these requests were included in the Last Will and Testament or the revocable trust documents. The disadvantage to this method was that whenever you wanted to make a change, whether it be changing the item or the recipient, or adding additional items, you had to sign a codicil to your Will or an amendment to your revocable trust. This would incur additional costs because the Codicil or the amendment had to be executed with the same formalities as the Will or revocable trust, which usually meant a trip to the attorney’s office.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Special Needs Trusts

Special Needs Trusts: An Excellent Way to Provide for Disabled Loved Ones

Have you been told that you cannot leave money to a disabled son, daughter or grandchild? If they receive certain government benefits, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid or subsidized housing, it’s true. Those benefits have asset restrictions, and if the individual has more than the maximum amount, his or her benefits will be interrupted. If you want to leave money or property upon your death, or gift it during your lifetime, to someone with a disability, you must plan carefully or you could jeopardize your loved one’s ability to receive SSI and Medicaid benefits.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

What You Need to Settle Your Affairs

A Checklist of Documents You Will Need to Settle Your Affairs After You Die

• List of Funeral Instructions and prepaid funeral contracts
• Medicare Card/Health Insurance Card
• VA File Number, Military discharge papers
• Birth certificate and Death Certificate
• Marriage license or Divorce Decree
• Prenuptial/postnuptial agreements
• Revocable/Living Trust agreements
• Last Will and Testament

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

What is a Trust?

Trusts: An Explanation of What They Are and How They Could Benefit You

A trust is a legal relationship in which one person, the Grantor, transfers property to another person known as the Trustee. The Trustee then holds the property, managing and using it for the benefit of a third person, known as the beneficiary. The property can be almost any type of property- money, real estate, business interests, securities, etc. The Grantor may also be referred to as the Donor, Settlor or Trustor. Depending upon the type of trust, the Grantor, Trustee and Beneficiary may be three different individuals, or in some instances, they may all be the same person. The document which creates this relationship and spells out the terms is known as the “trust agreement.” Once created, a trust is a legal entity which is capable of owning property. It may even have its own tax payer identification number and have to file income tax returns.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Organizing Your Most Important Papers

One thing each of us can do for the future is to get our personal and financial records in order. These records are both useful and something you will need on numerous occasions throughout your lifetime, including annual income tax preparation, financial planning and estate planning. It may even be relatives or friends who will need it in the event that something has happened to you. If you become incapacitated or pass away, your loved ones will need this information and documentation to take over your financial affairs, deal with insurance claims, apply for government benefits (such as medical assistance), or to settle your personal and financial affairs in the event of your death. You’re doing your loved ones a tremendous favor by keeping good records. Your filing system doesn’t need to be elaborate, just organized. The following is a list of what records you should maintain and how long you should maintain them.

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

When a Loved One Dies

A Checklist of What to Do When a Loved One Dies

When a loved one passes away, it is an understandably stressful time. It can be even more stressful and/or traumatic trying to remember all of the details that must be taken care of related to a person’s death. If you are in charge of handling the affairs of the decedent (the person who has died), here is a checklist of some of the more important considerations:

Like this article? Please share it: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail