People often request a simple will. The truth is, many wills actually are simple, but preparing the entire estate plan can be a complex task. Property must be titled properly, financial accounts need to have appropriate beneficiaries, and a personal property list should be created ... and then the "simple will" can simply name the personal representative. If minor children are involved, the will has more extensive work to do in naming guardians and setting up a trust.
A durable power of attorney is an instrument that allows you to name someone you trust completely to act as your agent in financial and real estate matters. By designating a POA before it is needed, you will save your loved ones the time, effort, and money of having to deal with the court process in the event that you would become incapacitated.
Health Care POA
In 2013, Wisconsin passed a law providing for a process to designate a health care power of attorney. If you become unable to make medical decisions, your family no longer needs to go through the courts to have a guardian appointed for you -- you are able to choose the person ahead of time! This document can be combined with your living will instructions.
Trusts are tools that can be used for many different purposes -- some people want to avoid probate to keep their estate details private, others want to control the way property passes after their spouse dies, and parents of young children typically provide a trust structure in case its needed. Trusts come in several forms to accomplish these different objectives; some trusts are revocable, some are created only upon death, and some are designed for clients who need Medicaid.
Marital Property AGREEMENTS and HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVES
In the past, pre-nuptial agreements were assumed to be for the rich and famous, but today Marital Property Agreements are a popular and effective tool to manage property within blended families. While health care directives in the form of a living will are important, you should also consider provisions for end-of-life decisions such as organ donations and funeral arrangements. By conveying your wishes ahead of time, one burden can be lifted off of those who ultimately must make those decisions if you are not able to.
BEYOND WILLS AND TRUSTS: PROBATE and informal probate
Although probate can be avoided in many instances, some circumstances require navigating the end-of-life branch of the court system. If you are a personal representative or beneficiary who is struggling to keep up with the paperwork, get help rather than getting frustrated.