We thrive on counseling clients when it matters most. We focus on estate planning for individuals and families in the Madison, Wisconsin area – even those who might not think they have an “estate.” We listen to your needs and design an estate plan to ensure what matters most to you is protected and passes to whom you want, and how you want, so that you have peace of mind.
Many people think that estate planning is only for the extremely wealthy. But even if you don’t think of yourself as wealthy, you do have an estate. If you own a home, have retirement and bank accounts, a life insurance policy, no matter how modest, that is your estate. And you will almost certainly benefit from an estate plan. More importantly, if you have a significant other, and children, an estate plan is essential to protect and plan for their future in the event you are incapacitated or pass on.
Now that you know you have an estate that is worth protecting - do you have a plan? A plan is defined as “a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something” or “an intention or decision about what one is going to do.” While none of us likes to think about planning for our absence, it benefits our loved ones to do so. That’s where we come in. We will listen to your circumstances, goals, and values and design a plan that best serves you and your family.
Working with us to design an estate plan protects your family in three powerful ways:
If your estate ends up in probate court, either because you don’t have a plan or you have a poorly drafted one, your affairs play out in a public court proceeding.
Without an estate plan your estate will be distributed according to Wisconsin probate law, which means a judge will make your decisions for you. That includes who becomes the guardians of your children, where they live, and how they are provided for. Of course, that’s not the plan you would have chosen. Instead of relying on a judge who has never met you or your family, take control with a properly designed estate plan.
Don't leave your affairs to chance. We’ll ensure we think about every contingency and draft a plan that covers your specific situation. On-line wills and trusts will fail you, and you don’t want to leave your most important decisions for a judge to decide.
Let’s work together to give you peace of mind and protect everything you’ve worked for and the people you love. We’ll design a plan specific to your situation and we’ll charge a flat fee so you know exactly what your plan will cost. Book a call with us to get started.
Every plan is unique, but there are many elements involved in a plan that’s right for you, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, durable powers of attorney, and health care documents. Read on below for a brief description of the tools we may use to achieve your goals.
Your last will and testament is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. If a person dies without a Will they are said to have died “intestate” and state laws will determine how and to whom the person’s assets will be distributed. Some things you should know about wills:
A will has no legal authority until after death. So, a will does not help manage a person’s affairs when they are incapacitated, whether by illness or injury.
A will does not help an estate avoid probate. A will is the legal document submitted to the probate court, so it is basically an “admission ticket” to probate.
A will is a good place to nominate the guardians (or back-up parents) of your minor children. All parents of minor children should document their choice of guardians. If you leave this to chance, your children could end up with the wrong guardians. When we are designing a plan that uses a revocable living trust, we still use a pour-over will (it pours over into the trust) to nominate guardians for minor children and other planning provisions.
Trusts can be simple or complex, and serve a variety of legal, personal, investment or tax planning purposes. At the most basic level, a trust is a legal entity with at least three parties involved: the trust-maker, the trustee (trust manager), and the trust beneficiary. Oftentimes, all three parties are one person or a married couple. In the case of a revocable living trust, for example, a person may create a trust (the trust-maker) and name themselves the current trustees (trust managers) who manage the trust assets for their own benefit (trust beneficiary). Depending on the situation, there may be many advantages to establishing a trust, including avoiding probate court. In most cases, assets owned in a revocable living trust will pass to the trust beneficiaries (or heirs) immediately upon the death of the trust-maker(s) with no probate required. Certain trusts also may result in tax advantages both for the trust-maker and the beneficiary. Or they may be used to protect property from creditors, or simply to provide for someone else to manage and invest property for the trust-maker(s) and the named beneficiaries. If well drafted, another advantage of trusts is their continuing effectiveness even if the trust-maker dies or becomes incapacitated. A revocable living trust is one of our most common estate planning tools that we use for our clients. Give us a call to find out if you and your family could benefit from establishing a trust.
A power of attorney is a legal document giving another person the legal right to do certain things for you. What those powers are depends on the terms of the document. A power of attorney may be very broad or very limited and specific. All powers of attorney terminate upon the death of the maker and may terminate when the maker becomes incapacitated (unable to make or communicate decisions). When the intent is to designate a back-up decision-maker in the event of incapacity, then a durable power of attorney should be used. Durable Powers of Attorney should be frequently updated because banks and other financial institutions may hesitate to honor a power of attorney that is more than a year old.
An advance directive is a document that specifies the type of medical and personal care you would want should you lose the ability to make and communicate your own decisions. Anyone over the age of 18 may execute an advance directive, and this document is legally binding in Wisconsin. Your advance directive can specify who will make and communicate decisions for you, and it can set out the circumstances under which you would not like your life to be prolonged if, for example, you were in a coma with no reasonable chance of recovery. A document that goes hand-in-hand with your advance directive is an authorization to your medical providers to allow specified individuals to access your medical information. Without this authorization, your doctor may refuse to communicate with your hand-picked decision maker.