What is an estate plan?
An estate plan consists of a primary document, typically a will or a revocable living trust, that directs what happens to your property after you die. An estate plan also usually includes documents such as financial and health care powers of attorney to appoint agents to make important decisions for you while you are living if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. It can also include specific authorization for how you would like your remains to be handled after your death, and who you would like to carry out those instructions. If you have children, a will can be used to designate a guardian to take care of your children if you die before they reach adulthood.
What happens if I don’t have an estate plan?
If you die without an estate plan and you are married, your assets will typically pass to your spouse automatically under Wisconsin’s community property laws. The assets will then pass again according to your spouse’s estate plan. If you are unmarried, or if your spouse has predeceased you and you have no estate plan, your assets will pass according to Wisconsin’s rules of intestacy. Even if these rules give your assets to the beneficiaries you would like, intestacy creates avoidable complications for your loved ones, and usually means more court involvement with your estate after your death.
When is an estate plan important?
Creating an estate plan ensures that you are prepared for unexpected events during life and that your wishes will be followed after death. Creating an estate plan is especially important if one or more of these circumstances apply to you:
(1) You have children.
(2) Your assets include real estate, retirement accounts or an interest in a business.
(3) You are divorced.
(4) You have personal property such as jewelry or family heirlooms that you want to give to someone specific.
(5) You want to make sure some of your property goes to charity.
How do I create an estate plan?
The prospect of creating your estate plan can be intimidating, but the attorneys at Bartelt Grob take the time to learn your situation and to discuss all your options with you. If you do not have an estate plan, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.
If you have an estate plan but there have been changes in your life since you last had it reviewed, we can help you cost effectively update your plan. Births, moves and marriages or changes in marital status, illness or the fortunes or misfortunes of your would-be beneficiaries may have created a need for updates. Contact us and we will make you comfortable again that your directions are in order.