8 Questions to Ask Before Drafting a Will

will document that brings up estate planning questions wiDrafting a will is an important estate planning step, and one that does require some preparation. We’ve assisted many Wisconsin clients drafting a will; while hiring an experienced estate planning lawyer ensures that the document is legally sound, asking a few of the right questions at home can assure that the will is accurate and complete.

Who do I want to appoint as guardian of my children? What is that person’s personal information?

Selecting a guardian for your children and other minors when you pass away is not a decision to be made lightly. The right guardian should be an adult, incredibly trustworthy, and should fit all the criteria of a capable guardian. Once you have chosen the right party to be guardian, have their full name and personal information with you when you visit your attorney.

Who are the beneficiaries that I want to receive my assets? What is their personal information (i.e. social security numbers, address, etc.)?

A beneficiary is a party (i.e. individual, charity, etc.) that should receive the assets listed in a will. A will can include instructions to divide the assets equally between beneficiaries or provide specific instructions on individual assets. When scheduling an appointment for drafting a will, have an idea of any specific instructions before visiting an attorney.

Are there any assets that I want to pass on to a certain individual, such as an heirloom piece of jewelry?

One of the most common estate planning mistakes we see is people who give verbal instructions to a beneficiary without including any written instructions in a will. Depending on the situation, this can lead to hard feelings and improper execution of verbal instructions. Unfortunately, verbal instructions are not legally binding, meaning that there is no legal way to ensure that they are followed. Instead of simply telling a beneficiary they can have a prized item, include a written instruction in a will; it’s the best way to ensure that all wishes are followed.

What assets should be listed in the will? Do I have information about those assets (i.e. bank account numbers, lock box information, etc.)?

Not all assets need to be listed in a will. For those assets that should be included in the will, compile pertinent information about the asset, such as the holder and number of a life insurance policy. All information needs to be given to a lawyer during the will drafting process.

Who do I trust to carry out the instructions in my will?

One of the key parties listed in a will is an executor. The executor is charged with the task of distributing assets and carrying out wishes listed in the will. An executor should be extremely honest and organized. The executor does not need to be a family member; it can be anyone you trust with the responsibility. Choose the executor carefully and discuss the decision with all relevant parties to make the process easier when the will goes into effect.

What is an irrevocable trust?

grandparents with family they set up irrevocable trust forRevocable and irrevocable trusts are important estate-planning tools. Basically, these trusts are legal documents that detail specific assets and the distribution of those assets. However, the specific situation and intended purpose are what dictates what type of trust (revocable versus irrevocable trust) is appropriate for every situation; a local attorney can give advice on the right type of trust and draft a legal document custom to the specific situation.

What is the purpose of an irrevocable trust?

The purpose of an irrevocable trust is to set aside an asset for the benefit of another party. This party can be an organization or individual. Different types of assets can be placed in a trust, such as life insurance or a financial account. Because an irrevocable trust applies only to a specific asset (or assets), other estate-planning documents should be drafted to address other situations, such as designating a guardian for minors.

The benefit of an irrevocable trust is that because the asset is in the trust, it is not subject to estate taxes (because an irrevocable trust is separate from the estate), the probate process, and legal action and judgments. An irrevocable trust can save a significant amount of funds and expedite the process at the time of effect (when the guarantor passes). An irrevocable trust can also be drafted so that even though the asset is set aside, interest from the asset in the trust is still received as income.

What makes an irrevocable trust different than a revocable trust?

A revocable trust can be modified; once an irrevocable trust is established, for the most part, the trust cannot be altered. Unlike a revocable trust, an irrevocable trust is not set up for situations where the guarantor is incapacitated, such as from an illness or accident. An irrevocable trust doesn’t usually take effect until the guarantor’s death.

What goals can an irrevocable trust accomplish?

The specific type of irrevocable trust that should be drafted depends on the financial goals and circumstances surrounding the beneficiaries. An irrevocable trust can provide for another entity, such as a charitable trust. A spendthrift trust can be set up for situations where the beneficiary should only receive a set amount of the asset over time. To determine what is the correct irrevocable trust for the situation, contact an experienced estate planning attorney that can assist with process from the start to the finish.

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