A "Living Will" will not distribute your property when you die? It is really a document that explains what medical care you wish to receive if you become incapacitated.
Wisconsin Estate Planning Tips Part 3
by Neil L. Wojtal
A Will is a written document that sets forth your wishes concerning the distribution of your estate, who will raise your children, whether your beneficiaries will receive your assets outright or through a trust and who will serve as your personal representative to see that your wishes are carried out. Anyone who owns assets and certainly anyone with minor children should have a Will. Without one, a guardian will be appointed for your minor children and a judge will decide who will have custody of your children. If one parent survives the other this may not be an issue, however, if both parents die at the same time, this process can be time consuming, expensive and create a lot of tension in a family. For instance if both sets of grandparents are living, there could be a dispute as to who should raise the children. You and your spouse may have a brother or sister who you would prefer to raise your children. If those wishes are not set forth in a written will they will not be followed by a judge.
Further complications arise if the deceased person has children as a result of different marriages. If you want your children from a previous marriage to receive part of your estate, you would need to cover that bequest in your will. In addition, if you desire to gift certain property such as your grandmother's wedding ring for example, that specific gift could be covered in your will. You can also make it clear in your will that certain assets are to be distributed to a favorite charity or relative. All of your specific wishes can be addressed in your will so that there is no confusion as to your wishes and you will then have appointed a personal representative selected by you to see that your wishes are carried out.
There are simple wills that are legally valid contained in the Wisconsin State Statutes in Sections 853.55 and 853.56. In fact, Chapter 853 contains a lot of information that would enable a person to create their own legally valid will. However, as with the Powers of Attorney referenced above, these wills are very simple and may not fit your individual circumstances. If that is the case, you should have a will and powers of attorney for both health care and finance and property drafted by the Zimmerman & Steber Legal Group or another qualified attorney who will customize your will and powers of attorney to meet your specific situation and address your desires.
I hope that you will seriously consider putting these important documents in place to make your wishes known to your loved ones when you are unable to speak for yourself.
When creating a will, the following tax consequences need to be considered. Consultation with a tax expert is advised before creation of a will to get the most favorable tax treatment for your assets and heirs.
- Estate tax imposed on estates of $5 MIL or more ($10 MIL for a couple) in 2011 and 2012. The amount will change to $1 Million or more in 2013 unless Congress acts.
- Inheritance tax if amount inherited is over $3.5 Million.
- Gift Tax – 2010 and 2011 exclusion is $13,000 annually per person. You can give away $5 Million in your lifetime without having to pay a gift tax.
State of WI –
- Estate Tax – none in 2011 or 2012 unless the legislature acts.
- Inheritance Tax – None if person died after 1/1/1992.
- Gift Tax – None after 1991.
Next Posting, Trusts Part 4
This blog is designed for general information purposes only and should not be construed to be formal legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your own situation. Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy and utility of the information contained in this blog, no warranty is made, express or implied, and Zimmerman & Steber Legal Group, LLC assumes no liability in connection with any use or result from use of the information contained herein.
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