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Clients First
It’s not just a motto;
it’s the guiding principle of our law practice.
Clients First
It’s not just a motto; it’s the guiding principle of our law practice.
Wills vs. Revocable Trusts

If you are a resident of Wisconsin and die without estate planning documents in place, state law mandates the manner in which your estate will be distributed, regardless of your wishes. The two main options for establishing your estate distribution wishes are as follows.

Wills

A Will allows you to determine

  • Who will receive your assets upon your death
  • Who should act as guardian for any minor children
  • Whether your beneficiaries receive their gifts from you outright or in trust
  • Who will serve as a personal representative (executor) and assume the responsibility to pay bills and distribute your estate
  • Who will be trustee if your Will creates a Trust after you die

A Will may also be used to minimize death taxes by creating Trusts to take advantage of various credits and exemptions, such as the Marital Deduction.

Revocable Trusts

Revocable Trusts, also known as Living Trusts, are becoming more popular as a way of managing your assets during your lifetime, including during a period of incompetence or incapacity. Revocable Trusts are also used to distribute your assets at death without using the probate process.  Revocable Trusts typically provide that the persons who establish the Trust also act as trustee and are the beneficiaries of the Trust during their lifetimes.

A Revocable Trust can be a very effective estate planning tool. Some benefits to creating a trust may include the following.

  • Avoid probate
  • Avoid or reduce death taxes in the same way a Will does
  • Control the manner in which assets are distributed
  • Maintain family privacy — Wills are probated and require notice to people you might not want involved

 

FAQ

 

I created a Will years ago. Do I need to update it?

We recommend that you review your estate plan, including your Will, at least every 3 to 5 years.  Wills may need updating periodically to keep pace with the changes in your life, such as the death of a spouse or other close family member, having a baby, buying a house, the divorce of you or a beneficiary, or any other life-changing events.

I am a new resident and have a Will that was drafted in a different state. What should I do?

Each state has its own statutes and tax laws.  Therefore, it is essential that you contact an attorney to have your Will reviewed.  Since Wisconsin is a marital property state, you may need to create a new Will.  And, if you are currently a Wisconsin resident and are moving out of state, you should contact an estate planning attorney in the state of your new residence to discuss the provisions of your Will that may need to be updated.

If I transfer my assets to my revocable trust, do I still need a Will?

Yes.  Even if you initially transferred all of your assets to a revocable trust, you may later acquire an asset that comes in your name and would require probate administration.  A “pour-over” Will complements a revocable trust by ensuring that all of your assets are distributed to the revocable trust upon your death.  Also, if you have minor children, a Will allows you to name a guardian for your children if you die before they are adults.