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Some facts of life are inarguable. Here are two: No one gets younger, and no one lives forever.
Over the course of a life, everyone expands their footprint in the world. They marry. Have children. Accumulate wealth, property and possessions.
Significant personal assets, in terms of family, money and material items, accrue. Planning ahead for how these life markers are managed after you die (or become incapacitated) is more than common sense. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can leave behind, to make your wishes clear and prevent conflict that can tear irreparable personal rifts.
It’s easy to put off estate planning. No one likes to think about the reasons for it. Yet the need heightens as both family and wealth grow. The important thing is to put a plan in place – period - in case you die suddenly, or suffer a traumatic health incident.
The estate planning attorneys at Krawczyk, Duginski & Rohr can help you begin the process of deciding who will make critical decisions affecting your children, finances, belongings and life’s work, and map out a plan that leaves no doubt about your desires.
The first, best step is to learn about the many elements of estate planning. The following topics should help, especially the linked information from the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Afterward, contact Gary J. Krawczyk, Michael W. Rohr, Matthew J. Krawczyk, Brian A. Romans or Lindsey Kujawa to start securing your legacy in a manner that will be respected and appreciated.
A will dictates who will receive your estate, who will raise any minor children, how beneficiaries should receive their inheritances, and who will administer the will (a “personal representative”). Creating a will is advisable when a person has accumulated assets, and absolutely when they have minor children. Trusts are created by wills to hold property for another person’s benefit, such as providing income or keeping property for minor children until they are adults.
Probate is a court-supervised process for transferring a person’s assets after they die. Probate carries out the instructions in a will, and determines what is owed for taxes and creditors. While a legal process, probate can usually avoid court hearings if the will is not contested. The personal representative (named in the will) is responsible for identifying and collecting assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets as dictated by the will and state law.
Unlike a will, which manages assets after you die, a revocable living trust is designed to manage assets while a person is still alive, and then after they die. This can be important if a person becomes disabled and unable to handle their affairs. A trustee controls a revocable living trust; usually the person who creates the trust names themselves as trustee, with a successor trustee identified in case the trustee dies or can’t carry out the duties any longer.
Durable power of attorney (POA) grants a person (an “agent”) legal authority to act on another person’s behalf for a wide range of purposes. Examples are handling bank accounts, paying bills, filing taxes, managing investments and making gifts. Should a person become incapacitated, a named POA agent can prove invaluable by avoiding the time and expense for a court to appoint a guardian. A POA document can lay out specific parameters for what an agent is allowed to do.
These documents address decision-making about medical care. Both are created while a person is of sound body and mind, in the case they become incapacitated and unable to make informed decisions. A living will specifies the types of life-sustaining care that should be employed (or not) in cases of terminal illness, or a persistent vegetative state. A health care power of attorney names another person to make health care decisions; the document can also address treatment preferences, nursing home care and organ donations.
Some truths in life cannot be avoided, no matter how unpleasant. The estate planning attorneys at Krawczyk, Duginski & Rohr will ensure that, when finally needed, your planning will reflect your true feelings for those most important to you.