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Winds of Change: Wisconsin Legislature Weighing Overhaul to Trust Statutes

A bill that has passed the Wisconsin Senate and is currently pending before the Wisconsin Assembly would bring about the first major change to the state’s statutes governing trusts in more than four decades. The bill, known as Senate Bill 384, would, in large part, write the Uniform Trust Code (UTC) into Wisconsin law, bringing the state’s trust statutes into alignment with the roughly two dozen states who have already adopted the UTC in whole or in part.

Supporters of the bill told the Milwaukee Business Journal that replacing Wisconsin’s current statutes governing trusts with the UTC would offer many benefits. The new statutes would make it easier on Wisconsinites to do many tasks, ranging from amending an existing trust to setting up special trusts that have more recently come into wider usage, such as pet trusts.

The bill received bipartisan support in the Senate, passing by a vote of 32-1. Governor Scott Walker has stated his intent to sign the bill if it reaches his desk, according to the Journal. The proposed new statutes, which are modeled upon the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws’ UTC, represent considerable input from several entities closely familiar with trusts, including the State Bar of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Bankers Association.

The bill “modernizes (the law) by clarifying many different definitions of what a trust is, the roles of the trustee, the roles of the beneficiary and how the trust can be administered,” Mike Semmann, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the banking association, told the Journal.

Wisconsin has not substantially changed its trust laws since 1972, and much has changed in those four decades. As one example, today, many people are seeking to create trusts for the care and benefit of their pets after they die. These pet trusts were exceptionally rare even just a few decades ago, but interest has spiked in recent years. The current Wisconsin statutes allow generally for honorary trusts (even those without human beneficiaries,) but do not expressly mention pet trusts. The UTC has clear provisions for these types of estate planning vehicles.

One collateral issue that the bill also addresses is its rollback of a controversial provision in the recent budget bill that significantly expanded the reach of the state’s Medicaid estate recovery program.

All of these potential changes, both to the law of trusts and the laws governing Medicaid estate recovery, highlight the importance of working with skilled and educated professionals who focus their practices on the area of estate planning, in order to ensure that you receive the best advice and most current information as you weigh how to go about planning your estate. To get the finest in legal advice, personalized attention and service, reach out to Madison estate planning attorney Daniel J. Krause of Krause Law Offices LLC. His practice centers around estate planning and you can be assured that the recommendations you get are thoughtful, customized and based upon the most up-to-date information regarding the state of the law in Wisconsin and how to utilize those laws to the maximum benefit of you and your family. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause today.

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