Month: August 2018

Tips for Finding an Estate Planning Attorney

Finding an estate planning attorney who can help you create an estate plan that works for your family, is an important first step in creating an estate plan. You’ll want someone you are comfortable with, who is respected by other professionals and will be able to help your loved ones during emotional times. An article from The Balance, “Tips for Finding an Estate Planning Attorney,” offers some useful pointers.

Ask your accountant. Many estate planning attorneys work closely with accountants to address tax issues. Your accountant should know a few estate planning attorneys that they work on a regular basis. They are likely to need to coordinate some issues, so a good working relationship between the two is a plus.

Ask another attorney. If you have retained attorneys in setting up a business, buying a home or reviewing a contract, ask that attorney who they use for estate planning. You should also ask about client referrals. Attorneys in other practice areas recognize that their knowledge about business law or real estate law, does not give them the same training and skill set of an estate planning attorney. …

Retirement Savings: Ahead of the Curve or Behind the Eight Ball?

Are you saving enough for retirement, asks US News & World Report in the article “Are Your Retirement Savings Ahead of the Curve?” Maybe the better question to ask is more specific: How much income do you think you’ll need to replace your salary to pay for your chosen retirement lifestyle? Remember that even when you are not working, you’ll still need to cover healthcare costs, car replacements, home repairs and the everyday expenses that add up quickly.

Here are some important points to help you as you plan for retirement income: …

Digital Assets: Another Reason to Update Your Will or Trust

Ensuring that your property is appropriately managed and disbursed upon your incapacity or death, is no longer limited to physical or financial property. Your estate plan now needs to include digital assets, the online accounts that are in your name, says the Journal of Financial Planning in the article “Don’t Forget Digital Assets in Estate Planning.”

If your will or trust hasn’t been updated in the past few years, chances are good it has no provision for your digital assets. This could create a larger problem than you’d think. Bank accounts, investment accounts and small business records stored in the cloud may not be accessible to heirs. That doesn’t even include sentimental items: treasured photos and videos that never made it to paper or your computer’s hard drive. …

Who can Serve as the Executor to My Estate?

Picking an executor to your estate is an important part of your estate planning process and should be done with a lot of thought and consideration about who is best to carry out your final wishes and ensure posthumous dispersal of your assets. Sometimes referred to as the “personal representative,” the executor is tasked with protecting your estate by settling debts, paying taxes, and ensuring assets are properly transferred to beneficiaries.

Executors have tremendous power over an estate and must make an assessment of all the deceased’s assets and debts and may even be able to sell of or liquidate property to help settle those debts. For those reasons and others, courts do set a standard all executors must meet and even leave open the possibility of the individual being excluded from serving as the personal representative altogether.

Wisconsin law only has two written requirements for persons to serve as executors of an estate, which are that the individual must be at least 18 years of age and be of sound mind. While some states exclude persons convicted of a felony from serving as the personal representative of an estate, Wisconsin places no such restrictions on the person assuming that role.

Situations that would exclude someone from being deemed of sound mind would include court judgements declaring the person to be incapacitated. Probate courts overseeing the will may also reject someone from serving as an executor if good cause can be shown that he or she has a conflict of interest or the capacity to carry out the deceased’s last will and testament.

A conflict of interest can be any situation where the executor would stand to gain from improperly administering the estate. This does not necessarily mean an heir cannot serve as the executor to the estate, but that he or she must not unjustly enrich himself or herself through business dealings overseeing the probate process.

Furthermore, while Wisconsin estate planning law does not prohibit a person living out of state from being the executor, he or she must generally name someone as a resident agent to receive paperwork related to the probate process. However, it is ultimately up to the probate court whether to accept or reject someone from becoming the executor to the estate.

For these reasons and so many others, it is generally best practice to appoint someone close and trustworthy who also lives in state to serve as your executor. It typically takes week and months to pass estates through the probate process and requires someone dedicated and honest to ensure that your last wishes are carried out and your loved ones and friends receive the assets you deem them worthy to receive after your passing.

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. Request a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to discuss your estate planning needs.

Can a QTIP Trust Help You and Your Spouse Save on Estate Taxes?

One reason many Wisconsin residents create a trust is to reduce their estate’s potential estate tax liability. For example, with a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust, married couples can maximize the potential estate tax deduction for their combined property. Basically, the way a QTIP trust works is that the first spouse to die leaves a “life estate” in his or her property to the surviving spouse. This means the surviving spouse may continue to use and receive income from the deceased spouse’s property. The property itself remains in trust until the second spouse’s death, at which time the trust assets are distributed to a final beneficiary, such as the couple’s children.

Wisconsin Court Holds Father’s Will Did Not Create QTIP

Creating a QTIP trust is not necessarily difficult, but it is something that must be done carefully to ensure there is no confusion as to your intentions. If you did not clearly intend to create a trust, do not expect a judge to make one for you after you die just to help your estate save money on its estate tax bill. The law is not that generous.

Here is a recent case in point. Four adult children attempted to sue the law firm that handled their father’s estate more than 30 years ago for malpractice. The children maintained that their father had intended to create a QTIP trust and the attorneys failed to do so after his death, eventually leaving the children with an estate tax bill of over $260,000.

So, what actually happened? According to the decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals for District IV, the children had no case. The children’s father drafted his will in 1967 with the assistance of an estate planning lawyer. The will left the “rest, residue and remainer of my property…to my beloved wife,” from which she was free to “use the income and so much of the principal” as she wanted for the remainder of her lifetime. Upon the wife’s death, anything left from the father’s estate would be equally divided among the four children, with the stipulation that the estate would be placed in trust until the youngest child graduated from college.

The children maintained that the language of the will implicitly directed his estate to establish a QTIP trust upon his death. The Court of Appeals disagreed. As the language cited above indicated, the father left his estate to the mother outright without any restrictions. Indeed, she was free to use up all of the property of her late husband’s estate and leave nothing for the children. The father’s attorneys did not “thwart” his estate planning intentions, as the language of the will did not create a QTIP trust.

Speak With a Madison Estate Planning Lawyer Today

A good estate planning lawyer listens to his or her clients and advises them on the best means of achieving their objectives. 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.

We invite you to request an estate planning consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

The ‘I Love You’ Estate Plan: Do You Want to Include Everyone?

Many estate plans fall into the “I love you” estate plan. This isn’t always how it goes, but it’s the rule rather than the exception, according to’s article “Estate Planning: Excluding a loved one from the plan.”

The exceptions are mainly because the family dynamic requires it. For instance, the person is not married or doesn’t have children. However, sometimes even a regular old-fashioned “Mom and Dad and Brother and Sister” family has a reason why one or more of the kids are left out of the will. …

Why do Wisconsin Estates Publish “Notice to Creditors” in the Newspaper?

Assuming you are the type of person who still reads local print newspapers, you might wonder what those “Notice to Creditors” you sometimes see in the back pages mean. These notices are actually part of the probate administration process in Wisconsin. While it might seem antiquated to rely on print notices in the digital age, they do serve a critical legal function.

Informing Creditors of the Deadline to File Their Claims

When someone dies, their debts do not die with them. A creditor retains the right to seek payment of the debt from the decedent’s estate. But the creditor may not know the decedent has passed away, and conversely, the personal representative of the estate may not be aware of all of the decedent’s creditors.

Make Your Funeral Plans in Advance: Pre-Planning Can Help Your Family

For most folks, postponing thinking about their funeral is the status quo, until someone close to them dies or until they have a health scare. Worse, according to The North Platte Telegraph’s article, “Sunday Focus: Don’t wait to make a plan until it’s too late,” they don’t address their demise at all, putting friends and family members in the position to have to guess what they would have wanted.

If you pre-plan your funeral, your family and loved ones are spared the unpleasant guessing game. Did she want a fancy casket? What suit would he have selected to be buried in? Or did she wish to be cremated?

If you pre-plan your funeral, you can also lock in costs for the services that morticians and cemeteries provide. If you are married or have a partner, you should go together and try to get as many of the hard decisions made in advance. This will also help you get comfortable with having this discussion. …

There’s more than a Roth or an IRA to Your Retirement

Most people work at a company that offers them a way to contribute to a retirement account, usually an IRA.  However, there are more options available, according to a recent article from Forbes titled “10 Retirement Accounts You Should Know About.”

Few of us need less money in our retirement accounts. Most of us enjoy the tax benefits we get from retirement accounts. Americans, in general, do a terrible job of saving for retirement. Some say the IRA, Roth IRA and other similar accounts were created to give us an incentive to do a better job. The tax advantages of these accounts make it more attractive to sock away money every year. These accounts were also set up with deliberate penalties, so people wouldn’t raid their accounts every time they needed a few extra dollars. …

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