Probate & Trust Administration
What Can A Will Do For You?
At King Law Offices, LLC, in Madison, we believe that a will is a necessary part of all estate plans. Even though a living trust is more flexible and powerful, a person should never have a living trust without a pour-over will.
Wills can accomplish many objectives:
- Control the distribution of probate assets
- Name a personal representative (executor) to distribute assets
- Name a guardian for children
- Create trusts to hold assets after death
Even if you are young and think you are indestructible, that doesn’t change the importance of getting an estate plan in place.
Control probate assets. A will is a document that controls the distribution of probate assets when a person dies. A probate asset is simply any asset a person owns that is not automatically transferred to another person at death. This includes anything the person owns in his or her own name like a car, house and stocks. It also includes personal effects like jewelry, clothing, furniture, collectibles and guns.
Nonprobate assets pass outside of a will and are controlled by a beneficiary document or title. Life insurance policies and IRAs are two examples of nonprobate assets that are distributed according to their beneficiary designation and not by a will. Jointly titled real estate and automobiles are nonprobate assets. They are transferred to the other joint owner upon the death of the first owner no matter what a will says. Likewise, joint bank accounts and accounts with a pay on death (POD) beneficiary will not pass through a will.
Name a personal representative. A will should name a personal representative. The personal representative carries out the plan set out in your will (under court supervision). If you do not have a will or the personal representative you name has died before you, a court will appoint someone to do this job.
Name a guardian for your children. You may name who is going to be the guardian of your minor children in a will. This designation will not be effective if the child still has a living parent who has parental rights. In Wisconsin and other states, the person you choose in your will must be appointed your child’s guardian unless there is good cause shown not to appoint them or the other parent is still living.
Create a trust. Your will may create a trust to hold assets for the benefit of others. You would also name a trustee to manage the trust. This is typically done if there may be minors or incompetents who would inherit from you. The trustee would hold, invest and distribute the trust assets according to the will’s trust provisions.
The trust will indicate when it is to be paid out to the beneficiaries. This is typically when the children all reach a certain age like 21 or 25 or upon the death of a named disabled beneficiary. Trusts can also be created for other purposes (e.g., care of pets).