Creating a will is an essential step in securing your legacy and ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. At Heritage Law Office, our experienced estate planning attorneys in Wisconsin will thoroughly review your needs and wants when planning your estate and provide an outline of your best options. Contact us either online or at 414-253-8500 to schedule a free consultation today.
The Importance of Wills in Estate Planning in Wisconsin
A well-crafted will is the cornerstone of a comprehensive estate plan. It serves as a legally binding document that dictates how your assets will be distributed upon your death. In Wisconsin, wills also provide several other benefits, including:
Naming an Executor
An executor is the person responsible for administering your estate after you pass away. They ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that any outstanding debts or taxes are paid. By naming an executor in your will, you can choose a trusted individual to manage your estate.
Appointing Guardians for Minor Children
If you have minor children, a will allows you to designate a guardian who will care for them if both parents are deceased. This is a critical decision to ensure the well-being and safety of your children.
Providing for Specific Bequests
In your will, you can make specific bequests, which are gifts of personal property or money to named beneficiaries. This allows you to distribute assets to loved ones, charities, or other organizations according to your preferences.
Reducing Family Conflict
A clear and concise will can help minimize family disputes and confusion during the probate process. By outlining your wishes, you can prevent potential disagreements among your loved ones.
Requirements for a Valid Will in Wisconsin
For a will to be considered legally valid in Wisconsin, it must meet several requirements:
Testator's Age and Mental Capacity
The testator (the person making the will) must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. This means they must understand the nature and extent of their property, as well as the implications of creating a will.
A will must be in writing. Oral or "nuncupative" wills are generally not recognized in Wisconsin.
A will must be signed by the testator and at least two competent witnesses. The witnesses must see the testator sign the will or acknowledge their signature. In Wisconsin, it is not required that the witnesses be disinterested (meaning they do not stand to inherit under the will), but it is generally a good practice to choose disinterested witnesses.
The testator must sign the will at the end of the document. If they are unable to sign, another person can sign on their behalf, as long as the testator directs them to do so in the presence of the witnesses.
The Probate Process in Wisconsin
Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person's estate is administered and their assets are distributed to beneficiaries. In Wisconsin, the probate process includes:
- Filing the will with the appropriate county probate court.
- Appointing a personal representative (executor).
- Gathering and inventorying the estate's assets.
- Paying outstanding debts and taxes.
- Distributing the remaining assets according to the will.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Will
When creating a will, it is crucial to avoid common mistakes that could lead to disputes, delays, or unintended consequences during the probate process. Some common pitfalls include:
Failing to Plan for Contingencies
It is essential to plan for contingencies, such as beneficiaries predeceasing you or being unable to inherit due to legal or practical reasons. A well-drafted will should include alternate beneficiaries and provisions for handling unexpected situations.
Relying on DIY Will Kits or Templates
While do-it-yourself will kits or templates may seem like a cost-effective option, they often lack the necessary legal precision and customization to address your unique needs and circumstances. Working with an experienced wills attorney can help ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive and legally valid.
Not Addressing All Assets
A comprehensive will should address all of your assets, including real estate, personal property, financial accounts, and digital assets. Failing to account for all assets can lead to confusion and disputes during the probate process.
Contact an Experienced Wills Attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
If you need assistance with creating a will or navigating the probate process, contact our experienced attorneys at Heritage Law Office. We offer remote, phone, and online appointments, so you can receive our services wherever you are. Use our online form or call us directly at 414-253-8500 to schedule a consultation.