eBook EstatePlanning Book

Wills

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EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ONE.  A will is a necessary part of every estate plan. Even trust-based plans should include a "pour-over" will in case there are any assets outside of the trust when the person dies. Some surveys show that more than 50% of people in the United States leave no will when they die.

The Wisconsin law concerning wills contains two form templates for people who may want to create their own wills. Here are links to that law if you want to look at the forms.

Basic Will
Basic Will with Trust Provisions

THE MAIN PURPOSES OF MOST WILLS:

CONTROL DISTRIBUTION OF ASSETS.  A will controls how some of a person's assets are distributed on their death. There are some assets which are not controlled by a will, for example, land held in joint tenancy, joint bank accounts, IRAs or 401(k)s with beneficiaries designated, and life insurance.

SELECT A PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE.  A Personal Representative (also called an executor) is the person who will make sure the will's provisions are carried out. The Personal Representative gathers the assets of the estate and distributes the assets according to what is written in the will. This responsibility is significant and a person making a will should discuss this appointment with his or her Personal Representative.

NOMINATE YOUR CHILD'S GUARDIAN.  People with minor children should nominate a guardian to watch those children if something happens to the parents. A will is a good place to nominate the guardian of a child. The Wisconsin courts must appoint the person nominated by a parent unless there is a strong reason not to. Of course, a surviving parent has rights which come before a nominated guardian.

MAKE A TRUST TO HOLD FUNDS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN.  A will may create a testamentary trust to hold assets until a child reaches a certain age. Assets and proceeds from life insurance or IRAs may be held in this testamentary trust until a child reaches a mature age, for example 25. College and medical expenses may be paid from the trust until the trust pays out to the child. While this is a useful type of trust, it will not help a person avoid probate like a living trust will. This type of trust is handled by the trustee named in the will, and is overseen by the probate court.