It’s one of the most emotional topics to deal with, yet the last thing you want to do is leave your family and loved ones scrambling to make sure they are legally and financially taken care of after you pass. If planned appropriately, your estate could be a wonderful gift to leave your family.
Just over 50% of Americans have a will set up. In many states, this means that when you die, your estate will be decided on by the courts. It could be heavily taxed and distributed among anyone that claims they have a stake in it or be awarded to one party that you may not want to have control of your financial affairs.
Even if you feel like you don’t have enough assets to warrant a will, you should still consult an attorney. Most attorneys offer consultations and you may find that by setting things up while you’re still here to oversee them, you may end up leaving more behind to your family than you imagined you could.
What You Must Do if You Have Children
- Anyone that has kids, whether grown or still small, should have these basics completed:
- A will, a power of attorney, a health care proxy, a “DNR” order, and possibly a trust.
- A will is a legal document that ensures your assets are distributed the way you want them to be after you die. Every will has to name an executor – someone that oversees the distribution of the assets. If your children are under 18 you also need to name a legal guardian for them.
- A power of attorney allows another person to act as your representatives in various matters, such as finances and insurance if you are unable to do so.
- A health care proxy allows you to designate another person to act on your behalf if health care decisions need to be made, in the event that you are not able to make these decisions for yourself.
- A “DNR” order stands for “do not resuscitate” and lets healthcare workers know that you do not want extreme measures taken to keep you alive if you are incapacitated.
Trusts are not always applicable, but if you have a large estate and/or a lot of assets you should have a trust. This is something that you definitely want to consult with an attorney on to be sure that your family is able to maintain ownership of the estate after you pass.
- As you are doing your will and estate planning also keep a list available and accessible of the following:
- Any financial accounts, all bills that are set up on auto-pay, any safe deposit boxes, pensions, savings bonds, and life insurance policies.
- These documents are also helpful to have:
- Tax returns, deeds for property owned, mortgage details, titles to all vehicles, marriage license, and military discharge information.
These are simple steps you can take to make sure your loved ones are well taken care of when you’re not around to do so.
The estate lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. Our dedicated attorneys will even make house calls if you are unable to come to our office.