There is a significant amount of confusion around estate planning (wills and trusts). Most folks do not realize the value of their estate, what is included in an estate, or that extra time and money will be spent when a court has to get involved because you have no will or trust. Everyone has an estate. The young child with a custodial account in his name or the niece who received an heirloom piece of jewelry for her birthday; both qualify as an estate. Bottom line…if you own anything of value that you would like to pass down to someone after your death, it is considered an estate.
If you do not plan by a will or trust the State of Wisconsin will distribute your assets for you. They will give your assets to who they say will get them, not you. In general, an estate plan (will-based estate plan or a trust-based estate plan) encompasses the accumulation, conservation, and distribution of an estate. A good estate plan is meant to enhance and maintain the financial security of individuals and families.
Creating the Plan
Creating an estate plan is a process. At the Law Offices of Rick D. Steinberg, we will ask questions to ensure we design a plan that works best for the outcome you desire. Below are some sample questions we go through to assist us in creating an estate plan that meets your goals:
- Do you want to provide for and protect your spouse?
- Do you want to provide for and protect your children?
- Do you want to avoid probate?
- Do you have a family business you want to leave your children?
- Do you want to protect your assets from lawsuits or creditors?
- Do you want to protect your children’s inheritance from the possibility of failed marriages?
- Do you want to ensure your death shall not be unnecessarily prolonged by artificial means or other measures?
- Who do you want to make financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated or disabled?
Estate Planning Documents
Here are some of the documents we utilize to build your estate plan:
- Will – A legal document that outlines who will manage the probate process for you, how your belongings will be distributed, and, if applicable, who you want to be the guardian of your minor children or other disabled family members after you die (if you die without a will, the state makes the final decisions, often at an added cost to your loved ones).
- Trust – A legal document that is generally an alternative to a will. The primary purpose of using a revocable trust instead of a will is to avoid probate.
- Financial Power of Attorney – This delegates someone you choose to legally handle your financial affairs should you become disabled or incapacitated. Without a power of attorney, no one may have the ability to access your bank account, securities, or any other property in your name without lengthy and difficult legal proceedings.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney – A healthcare power of attorney names a spouse or trusted relative to make health care decisions for you in case you are physically or mentally incapable of doing so on your own.
- Living Will – A living will instructs medical personnel that you do not want certain life-sustaining procedures if you are in a terminal condition and unable to make your own decisions. It is important to inform your physician of your desire to deny any medical procedures, treatments, or interventions that use mechanical or artificial means to sustain, restore or supplant a spontaneous vital function and would serve only to prolong the dying process.
Contact us or call (262) 784-2511 today to learn more about your estate planning options or to start the process.
The Law Offices of Rick D. Steinberg, serving the greater Milwaukee community for over 20 years.