Holidays – Family, Friends and Estate Planning
Authored by Nathaniel J. Krautkramer
While this blog is primarily about tax issues that I (and hopefully you, the reader,) find interesting, I reserve the right to discuss topics from the other areas in which I practice. In this case, given the season, I wanted to talk about estate planning. The holiday season at the close of the year gives us all a chance to reflect upon, and hopefully share time with, our friends and families. One of the greatest gifts that you can give to those parties and to yourselves is to have an estate plan in place to provide for your families and friends in the event of your passing. While the federal government has removed tax issues from the planning equation except for the largest estate, there is still a need to get this area of your legal life in order.
Having the right documents in place can make sure that your wishes will be carried out both during your life and after death. Powers of attorney for health care and finances can avoid the need for guardianship proceedings in the courts, and can insure that you receive the type of care that you would prefer when facing medical issues at the end of your life. Through the use of wills, marital property agreements, and trusts, you can also see to it that your loved ones are provided for after death. Many people do not realize that in Wisconsin, the legislature has provided for a default set of rules (the laws of intestacy) if you do not have a will in place. These rules are often not what people would prefer, especially in the case of second marriages. Under these default rules, if a decedent has a surviving spouse and children from a previous relationship, the surviving spouse is entitled to half of the decedent’s estate, while the other half goes to the decedent’s prior children. Situations such as this can be avoided by reviewing your options with an attorney, and then getting the documents in place so that your estate will be handled in the manner of your choosing.
If you already have estate planning documents in place, when is the last time that you reviewed them? The end of the year is an excellent time to take those documents out and make sure that they are still meeting your needs. Did you have children this year? If so, your will should specify who you would like to serve as a guardian for them in the event of your passing. Are the parties you named as agents on your power of attorney forms a decade or more ago still who you would want to make decisions for you today if you became incapacitated? Facts and circumstances change over time, and your estate planning documents should be updated to reflect this.
So, in this period when friends and families come together, consider getting your estate plan put together as well. It will provide you with peace of mind, knowing that your wishes will be carried out. And if you make New Year’s resolutions but never carry them out, think about making one this coming year to finally get your estate plan in order. It is one I would be glad to help you fulfill.
Happy Holidays!This blog post contains general information regarding public news, matters, and developments in the law. None of the information contained on this blog post is intended as legal advice or opinion relative to specific matters, facts, situations, or issues. Additional facts and information or future developments may affect the subjects addressed and no guarantee is given that the information provided in this blog post is correct, complete, and up-to-date. Consult with an attorney before acting or relying upon any information contained in this blog post.