You've spent your life building something you're proud of and caring for the ones that you love. While it can be a difficult subject to approach, it is equally as important to develop an estate planning strategy that protects your life's work. A well-developed estate plan will help to ensure that your family is taken care of, your assets are protected, and your final wishes are upheld. Whether you want help creating a simple will or need assistance with more complex aspects of the estate planning process, Milwaukee estate planning attorney Brad Sarkauskas can help. Call Heritage Law Office of Wisconsin to learn more.
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is not just reserved for the wealthy and elderly. Estate planning is an important legal process that should be utilized by everyone because there will always be uncertainties in life. Having estate planning tools in place will be beneficial in the event of an unexpected illness, accident, or death. These tools can help to instruct your family about your wishes, protect assets from creditors and taxes, and simplify things once you have died. Estate planning devices that you may want to consider drafting include:
- Wills and Trusts
- Advanced Directives
- Special Needs Trusts
- Powers of Attorney
- Asset Protection Provisions
- Tax Planning.
Last Will and Testament
Creating a last will and testament is a cornerstone of the estate planning process. Your will is a legal document that gives allows you to dispose of your assets and property after death. Through careful planning, you can choose:
- Which of your friends and family members inherit your property
- How your property is divided
- Whether conditions can be placed on the distribution of your property, and
- Who is in charge of making sure that your wishes are carried out.
When you decide you want to draft your last will and testament, our estate planning attorneys will help you create a device that fits your specific needs. We can review your financial situation, determine any potential tax or probate issues, and draft a will that accomplishes your specific goals.
Setting up a trust allows you to transfer your property into the possession of a third party. This third party, known as the “trustee,” then cares for your property for the benefit of another person, the beneficiary. Why would you want to consider setting up a trust? Trusts have many benefits, including:
- Avoiding probate
- Avoiding and/or minimizing taxes
- Safeguarding property from divorce or creditors
- Ensuring that property is distributed to a beneficiary evenly over a set number of years, and
- Designating funds or property for a specific use (e.g., education, healthcare).
Trusts are incredibly flexible tools and can be essential in many aspects of estate planning. You have the option to create trusts while you are alive (known as living trusts) or to order the creation of a trust once you have died (known as testamentary trusts). When creating a trust, you have the right to set the terms and conditions that apply to how the property can be transferred out of the trust. In many cases, these terms and conditions will be dependent on tax considerations, spending habits of the beneficiaries, and protecting the assets from events that may erode the inheritance, such as divorce, illness, or a lawsuit. The estate planning attorneys at Heritage Law Office of Wisconsin will help you determine which strategies are most beneficial to accomplish your goals.
Planning for Special Needs
Estate planning does not always require planning for your death. Special Needs Trusts can be executed to help provide for children and adults who suffer from disabilities. The government may offer some assistance to adults and children with disabilities. However, individuals who accept this government assistance are often subject to harsh property and income limitations. Family members who want to help their disabled loved ones without violating these limitations can set up special needs trusts. Property is passed into a trust without jeopardizing the public benefits to which the disabled person is entitled.
Advanced directives, known as living wills, are a way for you to take the initiative of your healthcare decisions before you become ill or incapacitated. Your advanced directive will reflect your medical wishes, including whether you want to receive extraordinary measures to keep you alive. This directive should also designate a Healthcare Representative who is empowered to make decisions about your life if you are unable to do so.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to authorize another person to take care of your property and make decisions in your place. Powers of attorney can be executed to grant limited authority (e.g., the power to sell and trade in your investment portfolio) or broad authority (e.g., the power to make gifts, run a business, or create a trust). Powers of attorney are generally used when you are unable to make important decisions in your life because of a physical or mental limitation. A power of attorney is only valid while you are alive. Any rights extended by a power of attorney are extinguished upon your death.
Guardianship & Conservatorship
Bringing a new child into the world is a common catalyst for estate planning. As a new parent, you may want to make sure that your child is taken care of in the event of an unexpected death or illness. Who will take care of your child if something happens to you? How will they be taken care of financially? If you have no plans in place a court will make decisions about your child's future without your wishes bring taken into consideration. These decisions may not be what is best for your family. You can take charge of the situation with proper planning.
Get Help With Your Estate Planning Needs
Estate planning involves much more than drafting your last will and testament. Whether you are a young new parent or getting older and reaching retirement age, it is important to plan for your future. Estate planning tools allow you to make important decisions about your health, property, and family. Making these plans now can reduce the stress that your loved ones encounter when you become ill or pass away.
Contact Brad Sarkauskas and the Milwaukee estate planning attorneys at Heritage Law Office today to schedule a time to learn more. We will review your personal goals, analyze the best tax strategies for your situation, and help you execute estate planning tools that are right for you. There is no better time to start planning for the future than today, so do not hesitate to call now.