5 Things to Consider Before You Create a Trust

setting up a living trust

You’ve worked hard to build up your property and your savings. What’s the best way to protect your estate and pass it on to your heirs?

You could write a will, but a will has its drawbacks. An estate can be tied up in probate for months, with fees eating up some of the inheritance. People concerned about these issues have another option: creating a revocable trust.

Here are 5 things to consider when setting up a revocable trust.

1. What Is a Revocable Trust

A revocable trust is a legal arrangement in which an individual (the settlor) shifts ownership of personal property into the legal ownership of the trust. This property can include all types of assets, including land, bank accounts, houses, jewelry, or intellectual property. A revocable trust can be set up at any point and can also be changed or dismantled if desired.

The trust is overseen by a trustee, who may be a family member or friend, a corporation, a bank, or the person who originally created the trust. 

The trust agreement documents the settlor’s instructions, including how the assets are to be managed, who receives income from the trust, and who the beneficiaries are.

The trust names the beneficiaries that will inherit at the termination of the trust, such as when the settlor passes away. The beneficiaries could be individuals, such as friends and family members, or organizations, such as charities.

2. Differences Between a Revocable Trust and a Will

When choosing whether to create a revocable trust or a will, there are many aspects to consider.

Going Through Probate 

The main reason people chose to establish a living trust is to bypass probate, the process through which the courts oversee the distribution of property from a will. Since a revocable trust does not go through probate, it can sometimes be settled faster, and can save the costs of the probate process.

When a will is executed, going through probate can take a year or longer, and the personal representative in charge of the will might need to report regularly back to the courts. The estate must also pay probate costs, such as fees owed to executors, attorneys, or accountants. These fees can add up to 5-10% of the total estate.

Fees

Since the creation of a revocable trust requires a property to be listed and then transferred to the living trust, the process of setting up a living trust can be much more expensive than writing a will.

Creating a Will and a Trust

In most situations, you will need to create both a will and a trust.

A will created in addition to a revocable trust can address the distribution of all assets not included in the trust. In one simple type of will, a “pour-over will,” everything that hasn’t been assigned to the trust gets “poured” into it, including property that was not originally transferred to the trust, or property that was acquired after the trust was created.

3. Revocable versus Irrevocable Trusts

There is another type of trust commonly used in estate planning: irrevocable trusts.

A revocable trust transfers ownership of estates and assets to the trust, but the settlor keeps the power to change or terminate the revocable trust.

An irrevocable trust permanently transfers ownership of assets to the trust. The settlor cannot revoke the trust or control the property. For this reason, most people choose a revocable trust instead. However, some people favor an irrevocable trust because it can assist in nursing home planning.

4. Transferring Assets to the Trust

Since a revocable trust holds the estate and assets of the settlor, it takes a lot of paperwork to set up a trust. 

When creating a trust, make a list of all the assets you own. This can include the land you own, large items like your home or car, small items such as your jewelry, or financial assets such as stocks and life insurance properties.

Once you have listed your assets, you will need to find paperwork for all the assets, including automobile titles, property deeds, stock certificates, or life insurance information. Some of this paperwork will need to be redone as you transfer your assets to the trust. For instance, after you set up a living trust you will need to get a new deed for your house, showing that the house is the property of the revocable trust.

After the assets have been placed in a trust, the settlor can allow a trustee to manage the estate and administration work. This is one reason people choose revocable trusts.

5. Providing for Minor Children

If you have children who are under 18 years old, you must create a will to name legal guardians for your children in the event of your death. You cannot name a legal guardian for a child in a revocable trust. 

However, you can set up a child’s subtrust within a revocable trust. In this case, the successor trustee would manage the property you leave to the child. 

Setting up a Revocable Trust

If creating a revocable trust seems like the best way to protect your assets, our team can advise you on all the details that go into the creation of a trust. Contact us to learn more.

5 Essential Tips to Have in Mind When Looking for a Corporate Lawyer to Represent Your Business

Business attorney

As a business owner, you need to have a business attorney to represent you in times of need. Troubles with a contract, employee problems, and customer claims are just a few reasons why a business lawyer is an essential part of your team.

Because of their importance, hiring a business lawyer is a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. A simple search on your internet browser can lead you to many local business lawyers, but you don’t want to hire anyone you come across. 

You need to ensure that the attorney you decide to hire is one who will represent you when needed and provide you with excellent service as someone you can trust for years to come. Continue reading below for a few secrets on how to find the right attorney for you and your business!

Here’s everything you need to know about finding someone who’ll be the best fit!

1. Request a Consultation

If you believe you’ve found a lawyer that you like, request a consultation before making a final decision. When you sit down with him or her, this is the time to figure out as much about him or her as possible. Get to know the attorney’s personality and if it goes well with yours and your business.

Use this time wisely. Ask all questions you have and give full details about your business and what you expect from the attorney. 

Then, allow the attorney to explain how he or she will provide you with your business needs and how he or she will meet these expectations. Ask what the process for attorney and clients is as well. 

It’s a good idea to ask about the cost of this consultation before the meeting, so you know what to expect.

2. Ask for Recommendations 

If you’re having a hard time finding a lawyer or two to schedule a consultation with, then begin asking friends and family members for recommendations. There’s a good chance that someone you know knows a good attorney that is well respected in your area.

As a business owner, you most likely have a few business partners or business friends. If this is the case, then be sure to ask them what attorney they work with as well. 

Choosing someone who has a good reputation with your business friends gives you peace of mind knowing that you’re making a solid decision. 

3. Research Their Experience 

Having a few recommendations from friends is a great starting point. You should do some of your own research as well. Take the time to do an online search to research in-depth the attorneys that you’ve selected.

How much experience does each attorney have? Aside from years of general experience, how many years of local experience does each attorney have? 

You should try to find someone who has plenty of experience working in the area where your business is located. Each state and city has its own guidelines, laws, and regulations for businesses. 

You’ll want to hire someone who is familiar with all of these specifics. 

4. Ask for Referrals 

Another great thing to ask from the attorney is for referrals. If he or she is a reputable attorney, then he or she will have several referrals to offer you. Once the attorney gives you a few referrals, be sure to reach out to these past clients. 

Call each referral and ask them questions about their own experience with the attorney. Learn about all the good the attorney has done for them and even some of the not-so-great experiences. 

5. Assess Different Fees 

The fees that an attorney charges shouldn’t be the only determining factor you use to decide who you’ll choose. There are great attorneys who charge hefty fees and great attorneys who charge much smaller fees. 

What you need to be aware of, however, is that not all attorneys are great attorneys. Don’t let the price of one sway you in a certain direction without doing the rest of your research first. Once you have a few great attorneys narrowed done, you can then use their fees to determine which one is a better fit for you. 

6. Locate a Local Attorney

Locating a local attorney is important because this will be someone who knows about the area and other local businesses as well. Think about what legal needs your business has. A local attorney should know how to handle these legal needs in the area where your business is located. 

Choosing someone who’s local also helps when it’s time to set up a consultation. It also helps when it’s time to meet up with your attorney in person for future meetings as well. A local attorney might also have strong relationships with local officials and courthouses. 

All of these factors can come in handy when it’s time for the attorney to defend you in a case. You can access local lawyer directories to ensure you’re only shifting through attorneys that are local. 

Do You Need an Experienced Business Attorney? 

If you’re a business owner, then you need to hire an experienced business attorney who can be by your side during your most crucial times of need. 

You never know when you might be faced with difficult times and in need of an amazing, experienced, local attorney who you can trust.

Click here to contact us today to see how we can help you with all your legal business needs!

What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do? This is What You Need to Know

By 2030, one out of every five Americans will be 65 years of age or older. Never before has the country had such a large over-60 population. 

As the population ages, elder care and elder law are becoming more complex. Families are increasingly struggling with the documentation and processes associated with living well in old age.

Keep reading to learn how an elder law attorney can help you and your loved ones manage the changes and challenges of aging. 

What Is Elder Law?

What is elder law, exactly? At its simplest, it is the body of law that deals with the elderly, their needs, and their rights. 

Elder law covers a wide range of concerns, including:  

  • Estates, estate planning, and trusts
  • Guardianship or conservatorship issues
  • Disability and special needs planning 
  • Long-term care arrangements 
  • Elder abuse 

Within each of these categories are numerous sub-categories of laws, rights, and limitations.  

Estates, Estate Planning, and Trusts

Estate planning is the process of deciding what will happen to a person’s belongings, including their home and finances when he or she dies. Although estate planning is its own category of law, it is also considered elder law. 

Guardianship or Conservatorship Issues

Illness, dementia, disabilities, and other conditions can render elders incapable of making decisions for themselves. When this happens, another person must step in and make decisions for them. Determining who that person should be and completing the paperwork to make that decision legal is elder law. 

Disability and Special Needs Planning 

The disability planning portion of elder law includes protecting one’s assets and ensuring resources for care in the event of a disability. Disability planning is important for elders, but also for families in which a child or other disabled party is dependent on the elderly person in question. 

Long-Term Care Arrangements 

Long-term is consistently more expensive than Americans realize. To make matters worse, few Americans understand the complicated restrictions associated with Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits. Hiring an elder law attorney is often the only way to properly prepare to meet the demands of long-term care costs. 

Elder Abuse

Vulnerable elders may become victims of physical, emotional, or financial abuse. Elder law covers their rights and protections. 

What Is an Elder Law Attorney?

An elder law attorney is a lawyer who specializes in elder care issues. He or she: 

  • Understands the complexities of elder care law
  • Knows the laws and regulations specific to Wisconsin Medicaid planning
  • Is experienced in helping families walk through the legal processes necessary to protect themselves and their assets 
  • Can break down complicated legal topics into easy-to-understand language
  • Can protect your rights or your loved one’s rights in the event of abuse 

Elder care attorneys can assist you and your family in:

  • Making important decisions
  • Financial planning
  • Completing critical paperwork to ensure your decisions will be recognized and respected

Decision Making

Often, elders aren’t even aware of all the decisions they need to make. Many have incorrect assumptions about what they need or can expect. 

Elderl law attorneys can educate elders and their families on what questions they need to ask and answer. They can explain standard practices and options. Through this, they can help families reach the decisions that will serve them best. 

Financial Planning

As one gets older, financial planning becomes far more involved than simply having a 401k or other investments. Depending on one’s age, health, and assets, it can include:

The laws and restrictions regulating these activities vary by state, so it is important to get the help of a legal professional when drawing them up. 

Completing Paperwork

In the modern world, aging comes with an abundance of paperwork. Much of it is obscure or confusing. Worse, if it is not done absolutely correctly, it may be considered invalid. 

An elder care attorney can help families complete or draw up: 

  • Medicare or Medicaid applications
  • Veterans benefits applications 
  • Revocable living trusts
  • Estate planning documents
  • Living Will and airtight Power of Attorney documents

When to Get an Elder Law Attorney

Now that you know what elder law attorneys do, how do you know when you need one?  Realistically, if you or a loved one is 65 years of age or older, or is at or approaching retirement age, it is smart to consult an attorney. 

Finding an attorney is particularly important if the elder: 

  • Is disabled or has disabled dependents 
  • Owns a business or other substantial assets
  • Has acute or chronic health conditions
  • Has been married more than once or is recently divorced
  • Has no children or does not have good relationships with their children

When in doubt, best practice is to consult with an attorney to ensure that your plans and documents are adequate, legal, and complete. 

How to Find an Elder Law Attorney

When choosing an elder law attorney, there are few key factors to keep in mind.

First, make sure you are selecting an attorney experienced in elder law. Not just “any” attorney will do. You need to select an attorney or firm with experience in elder law

Second, choose an attorney located and licensed to practice in your state. Elder law varies widely from state to state, as do the requirements for essential documents such as living wills and trusts. Choosing a local attorney can ensure you get assistance customized to your state’s requirements. 

Finally, choose an attorney that you or your loved one is comfortable with. Elder law involves discussing and making decisions about deeply important and personal issues. Selecting an attorney that you trust can make those difficult conversations easier.  

Talk to an Attorney Today

If you or your loved one is aging, don’t wait to contact an elder law attorney and make sure your affairs are in order. There is no substitute for the peace of mind that comes with knowing your family will be protected even if the worst happens and no better gift you can give the ones you love. 

Contact Wisconsin elder law attorneys to get started today.

What Is Municipal Law? A Simple Guide for Beginners

There are so many areas of practice in the law; criminal, bankruptcy, family, civil rights,  entertainment, and many more. 

We hear about these areas of law and the court cases that come from trying to uphold this laws all the time. 

But there is one less known area of law which actually affects every day life quite a bit. And that is municipal law. 

If you want to learn more about municipal law and if it even applies to you, you are in the right place!

What Does Municipality Mean?

In order to really understand municipal law, we need to back all the way up and learn what a municipality is. 

The definition of a municipality is a community with a local government and specified boundaries. This includes towns, cities, or villages. 

These areas are formally organized by the larger state where they are located. They are given the authority to have their own laws and standards, as long as they are in line with the state’s laws as well. 

Municipalities and their governments were created in order to give the state’s a way to outsource some of the necessary services. This includes water, garbage disposal, and utilities. 

What Does Municipal Mean and What Is Municipal Law?

Since we understand that municipality is a defined area with a local government, it follows that municipal is a part of that. 

The municipal definition is the governing body in that area. And municipal law is the rules, regulations, and standards that are set by that governing body. 

This type of law gives those in the municipal government set limits to their power and also gives the community regulations to keep things running as smooth as possible. 

Municipal government officials are elected by the people living within their boundaries. After they are elected they are then responsible for upholding the law, adding to the law, and in certain circumstances working with the community to change outdated or unnecessary laws. 

Some of these municipal government titles include mayor, city council, or commissioners. 

Many of these elected officials are required to follow the laws set by their municipality but many of them were not actually trained lawyers before getting their position. 

Who Does a Municipal Attorney Represent?

There is a lot that a municipal government may want to do to help or improve their community. But they do not just have free reign to do whatever they think is necessary. 

A municipal law attorney is their advisor on what they are and are not allowed to do within the government. 

These types of attorneys do not represent a person but instead represent community governments, council boards, or other municipal groups. 

Often a municipality will have a contracted attorney that they can use often for counsel, not just when they are a part of a lawsuit. That attorney is hired through the government.

But a citizen may also need a lawyer who understands and is familiar with the local municipal law as well. If they believe there has been an issue with the upkeep of the law, they need someone who can argue that law for them. 

Many law firms can help people understand specific laws in their community, like estate planning or property management. 

What Falls Under Municipal Law?

Okay, so a municipal government has the responsibility to continually improve their community and make sure it is successful. But they also have the responsibility to stay within the bounds of the law. 

So what exactly falls under municipal law that these government bodies are working under and also creating?

This list obviously varies from place to place, as each governing body has come up with different regulations to cover specific needs. 

But, generally speaking, municipal law covers any liability the municipality may have, use of power, and space management. 

One of the most important aspects of municipal law is in drafting new ordinances for the municipal laws. There are very specific processes and standards that adding to the law takes. A lawyer can help the government body make sure that what they are doing is legal so that it can go through. 

Another common practice of municipal lawyers has to do with zoning for properties. Each community is divided up into sections; business, residential, etc. So the municipal government keeps up with all things concerning the zoning and building in the city. 

Municipal law also covers police operations, what they can and cannot do. These lawyers also deal with some traffic prosecution as well. 

There are a lot of areas that are covered within municipal law. A lawyer with specific training in this type of law is so helpful to make sure everything is done correctly. 

Why Is Municipal Law Important?

There are laws in place to keep order and structure, to maximize safety, and to promote personal rights. 

Each government entity has their own set of laws that are within their jurisdiction, from Federal to State to County to Municipality. That is a lot of laws to keep track of and uphold. 

A municipal lawyer is someone who is trained in municipal law but also has a thorough knowledge of all applicable laws (Federal on down).

This type of lawyer is critical to making sure the government runs as smoothly as possible and that citizens are also protected against abuse of power. 

If you want to learn more about municipal laws or anything legal, please contact us today! 

What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit? 5 Main Types of Personal Injuries

personal injury lawsuit

We all know it in the back of our minds: injuries and accidents happen, we’re just waiting for the next time they happen to us. It’s bad enough when an accident is inevitable, but when it occurs because of someone else’s negligence, you shouldn’t be left to foot the bill.

That’s why personal injury cases are so common today. They give you an opportunity to hold the person accountable while minimizing the damage you have to suffer.

Although every case is unique, they all boil down to a few top categories and types of personal injuries.

1. Car Accident Cases

Every year, there are 2.35 million people injured in vehicle accidents in the US alone. Many of these injuries are mild, but some of them are life-changing.

In a car accident lawsuit, you need to prove that the other driver was at fault or mostly at fault for the collision. You also need to be able to prove your injuries and damages.

It’s important to recognize that your settlement isn’t only meant to cover the costs you’ve already incurred. You need to consider the future repercussions of your injuries too.

For instance, you may need ongoing physical therapy or even home nursing care. If your future career prospects are damaged or ended because of your injury, you should be suing for that loss as well.

2. Medical Malpractice Cases

To many victims, medical malpractice cases are especially emotional. After all, you put your trust in a medical professional, and when they are reckless with your health, it feels like a betrayal.

With a medical malpractice case, one of the most critical challenges is proving that the provider failed to meet the minimum standard of care.

For instance, there are known risks to certain procedures and medications. If you happen to have complications despite the doctor taking all the necessary precautions, you wouldn’t win a malpractice suit.

Instead, these lawsuits are meant for cases when doctors fail to meet their minimum requirements. For instance, if a surgeon doesn’t sterilize their equipment properly and it causes an infection, you’re likely to win that lawsuit.

3. Assault, Battery, Other Intentional Injuries

Most of the time with vehicle accidents and medical malpractice cases, the person who injured you is being reckless and neglectful. They aren’t necessarily injuring you on purpose.

Assault, battery, and other intentional injury cases are different. The person actively chose to do harm to you rather than just choosing to take risks with your safety.

For this reason, plaintiffs in these cases are more likely to receive damages above and beyond their financial losses. That could include pain and suffering payments or punitive damages. If you aren’t familiar with the term, punitive damages are meant to be punishment for a defendant’s actions.

In these types of personal injury cases, the more documentation you have, the better. This is one of several reasons why it’s important to file a police report when an assault or battery occurs. Police reports are viewed as highly reliable evidence rather than he-said-she-said stories from the people involved.

4. Slip and Fall or Premises Injury Cases

Personal injury cases don’t always deal with a person’s actions in the moment an incident happens. Sometimes the problem is that the person didn’t take preventative measures to keep you safe before the incident occurred.

Premises injuries like slip and fall cases are prime examples of this.

Any property owner has a responsibility to take precautions to make their property safe for visitors. That includes commercial properties like stores and restaurants.

A slip and fall case is exactly what it sounds like. You’re on someone else’s property and you injure yourself because they didn’t take precautions like mopping up a spill.

However, you may also be able to sue a property owner due to their failure to protect you from crime.

For example, you’re leaving a restaurant late at night. Thanks to a lack of lighting or security in the parking lot, it attracts criminals and they rob you. You can seek damages from the property owner for failing to take precautions against a known risk.

5. Dog Bite Cases

This category might seem specific but it’s surprisingly common. As much as every pet parent loves their furry friends, there is always a risk involved.

As far as the law is concerned, a pet owner is liable for any damage or injury their pet causes. It varies from state to state, but in Wisconsin, owners are liable for the cost of any dog bite or other injuries their pets cause.

In some cases, the damages can be more extreme. If an owner knows their dog has bitten someone in the past and the dog bites someone again, the owner may need to pay double the financial damages to the second victim.

This is meant to force dog owners to take more responsibility if their pet is known to be aggressive. While any dog can bite at any time, owners need to take extra precautions if they know their dog has this tendency.

As with other injuries, you may be able to receive damages for future consequences of a dog bite. For instance, perhaps the bite scarred you and you need reconstructive surgery for the scar. You can seek damages to pay for that surgery.

Understanding the Types of Personal Injuries for Your Case

In all types of personal injury lawsuits, one of the biggest problems for plaintiffs is a lack of knowledge. Some people don’t bring a lawsuit at all even if they deserve compensation because they worry about the process and the hassle or they don’t realize they have a case.

While it helps to have a basic understanding of the types of personal injuries, your next step is to hire a lawyer who can take the case off your hands. To find out if you have a case, call our personal injury attorneys today.

Estate Planning 101: All You Need to Know About Estate Planning

estate planning 101

No matter how old you are, it’s never to early to start some estate planning.  Some simple measures can make a world of difference for you and your family, even if that eventuality is way in the future.

You also do not have to be a multimillionaire to take advantage of the laws surrounding trusts and estates. Some careful planning with the assistance of a qualified attorney can help you make preparations now while you are creating your legacy.

Here is a broad overview of Estate Planning 101 to help you get started. These questions will help guide you as you begin to plan for the future.

1. Where Do You Live? 

When you begin to plan your estate, you first need to consider where you live.

If you live in Wisconsin, you will not have a state estate or inheritance tax. However, if you own property in a state that does have this kind of tax, like New Jersey or Pennsylvania, that state may levy taxes on your beneficiary or your estate.

If you are very wealthy now or in the future, your estate may be subject to federal taxes.

However, there are other financial benefits to estate planning, even if you do not expect a large tax bill. If you place certain accounts in trust for your children, they may derive tax advantages while the money grows over time.

2. What Do You Have? 

Owning property, a business, life insurance, or other items of value means you should plan for their distribution after your death. 

The more money you have, the more you need an estate plan. However, even people who consider themselves middle class can benefit from having a will and even trusts to determine who gets what. 

If you have a large family, you may want to specify who gets how much of your estate. You may wish to include only those who will need it. You may wish your money to go to your children, but to be managed by another family member until they are aged 25 or 30.

Passing your assets to beneficiaries through a trust can also be more expedient than going through probate. Probate can be a long and contentious process. If you plan your estate carefully, the people you leave behind will have access to your property and money through a trust more quickly.

3. Who Do You Take Care Of?

If you have small children, you should have a will and estate plan. No one in their twenties or thirties likes to think they may die one day, but unfortunately, terrible things do happen. You want to take care of your family, just in case the worst happens.

In addition to making financial arrangements for your children, you may also want to designate who will take care of them. Some wills will name a guardian for minor children if both parents die.

You may also name someone to administer the estate, (control the money) after you pass away. They might be given the responsibility of deciding on what the money in the estate can be spent for the benefit of the children. For example, they might be able to approve college tuition but not the purchase of a motorcycle.

If you have someone with disabilities in your family who is unable to work for a living, you may want to make special provisions. There are trusts that can be set up for the benefit of disabled people which provide special protection. These special needs trusts may be funded by an inheritance from you.

These trusts aim to ensure that your family member is taken care of throughout their life.

5. Who Do You Trust to Take Care of Your Affairs? 

When you plan your estate, you must choose someone to pay your debts, distribute your assets, and make sure that all of your wishes are followed. This will be your Personal Representative. 

You can give your Personal Representative a wide range of power, including the ability to file taxes on trusts, distribute monies to beneficiaries, and even arrange your funeral.

Your Personal Representative can be your spouse, a trusted child or friend, or a lawyer or accountant. You should also name alternative Personal Representatives in case they predecease you.

You can also assign someone the responsibility to make end-of-life medical decisions on your behalf.

6. What Does Your Family Structure Look Like? 

Did you remarry late in life? You may want to make specific provisions to leave your estate to the children of your first marriage.

Do your children fight over money frequently? Is there a member of your family who is unworthy of inheriting from you? 

Are your family members well off, or do you want to teach them the true value of hard work? You may wish to give a portion or all of your estate to a charitable organization.

Estate planning will solidify your wishes to reduce infighting in your family and make sure your assets go to whom you want them to go. 

7. How Do You Want to Enjoy Your Retirement? 

Estate planning specialists and lawyers can help you get the full value of your money before you die.

Estate planning should start well before you retire.

Estate Planning 101: Not As Hard as You May Think! 

Estate planning 101 does not have to be difficult or morose. In fact, it is a great feeling to understand you can make the most of your income and provide for yourself and your family in the future. 

By exploring your options and setting up your affairs now, you will reap the rewards for a long time to come.

For more information on planning your estate, contact us

Who Needs a Living Trust? Smart Planning Moves for Your Future

who needs a living trust

Only 40 percent of Americans have a will or living trust.

More than half of the population has no legal control or protection over their assets in the event that they die or become incapacitated. Frighteningly, nearly a third of older adults have never even discussed their end-of-life wishes with their families. 

But the entire subject is often a source of confusion. Who needs a living trust? Who can get by with just a will? How do you know which category you fall into? 

Keep reading to learn what a living trust can do for you and if you or a loved one should create a trust as part of your estate planning process.

What Is a Living Trust?

While most people have a decent idea of what a will is and does, many wonder, “What is a living trust?” 

Like a will, a living trust is a legal document that designates control or ownership of one’s assets. Unlike a will, a living trust goes into effect immediately upon creation rather than upon the creator’s death. This means it can be used to:

  • Protect or control assets in the event of dementia or incapacitation  
  • Distribute assets in ways wills cannot 
  • Avoid probate 

Under a living will, an individual legally becomes the “trustee” of his or her own assets.

Types of Trusts

Living trusts should not be confused with testamentary trusts. Living trusts are established and take effect while the creator is alive. Testamentary trusts are created upon an individual’s death in accordance with his or her will. 

There are two kinds of living trusts:

  • Revocable
  • Irrevocable

In revocable trusts, individuals may add to, alter, or dispose of the covered assets at their discretion. 

Under irrevocable trusts, no changes may be made to the covered assets once the trust is established.  

The exact rules over what a trust may cover and how it is structured can vary from state to state.  

Who Can Create a Living Trust?

Anyone with assets of any kind can create a living trust. 

Many people mistakenly believe that only the wealthy need wills or trusts. This is untrue. Even individuals with modest estates benefit from clearly outlining their desires for themselves and their assets via the appropriate legal documents

Primary Benefits of a Living Trust

Individuals questioning “do I need a will or a trust?” often find the decision easier to make when they understand the numerous benefits living trusts can afford them. 

Protection Against Incapacitation

As of 2019, 14 percent of Americans 71 years of age and older have some form of dementia. That number is only expected to increase as the population continues to age. 

Living trusts protect both individuals and their assets in the event that they develop dementia or are otherwise incapacitated. With a living trust, incapacitated individuals can:

  • Restrict access to and control of their finances to the person(s) of their choice
  • Ensure that their assets are used according to their wishes
  • Prevent themselves from being assigned to conservatorship

Creators can also safeguard assets they wish to pass along to their families that might otherwise be sold to fund their care. 

Probate Avoidance 

Probate is a court-led process that typically occurs when an individual dies. It involves the assessment and distribution of the deceased’s assets. 

Whether or not its reputation is deserved, probate exists as something of a nightmare in the public consciousness. Living trusts can place assets outside of probate, thereby sparing survivors the pain and stress of that process. 

Granting Assets to Minors 

Technically, individuals can bequeath assets to minors via their wills. However, in those situations, a court-appointed adult is assigned to control the assets in question. They may continue to control them until the beneficiary is 18 or 21, per state rules. 

Living trusts enable individuals to specify:

  • Who controls the assets until the minor is of age
  • When the minor qualifies to receive their assets (e.g. upon graduation from high school or college)
  • What purposes the assets may be used for (college tuition, a vehicle, housing, etc.)

Secondary Benefits of a Living Trust

Living trusts also offer additional benefits that may be of interest in some situations. 

Pack-Up Plans

Living trusts can also allow creators to implement back-up plans. For instance, one might specify a primary beneficiary for an asset as well as a secondary beneficiary. This can ensure that precious items remain in the family instead of becoming subject to secondary assignment if the first beneficiary dies. 

Privacy

Legal wills become public documents upon an individual’s death. Living trusts remain private, allowing people to mask their finances and decisions from open view.

This can be particularly valuable in situations involving:

  • Large sums of money 
  • Blended or second families 
  • Business assets 

Who Needs a Living Trust?

“Do I need a trust?” is a common question among individuals exploring their estate planning options.

While only you can decide if a living trust is right for you, these guidelines can help you make an informed choice.  

Property Ownership

If you own property that you wish the bequeath to specific members of your family, a trust may be a valuable investment. This is particularly true if:

  • Complicated family dynamics are involved
  • Both primary and secondary requirements are needed
  • Property is owned in multiple locations

Marital and Family Status

Married individuals can often easily pass shared property to their spouses. Unmarried couples may need a living trust to keep property out of probate and bequeath it as desired. 

Trusts can also be important for individuals whose legal next of kin are not willing or able to properly handle their finances in the event the creator dies or is incapacitated. Trusts can designate an alternate, more appropriate party instead. This can be particularly relevant for single individuals who would prefer their assets not be left to parents or siblings who do not share their values.

Age and Health 

Living trusts are especially valuable to individuals who are:

  • Older
  • Of any age but in poor health
  • Recently diagnosed with early-onset or chronic health conditions

Wealth

The more assets you have, the more likely you are to need a living trust.

The types of assets matter, as well. Real estate, businesses, and other legally complicated assets may be a much stronger reason to invest in a living trust than simple net worth. 

Parents or Guardians of Minors

As noted, anyone who wishes to leave assets to minors and have control over how those assets are handled likely needs a living trust. 

How Do I Set up a Trust?

Always seek out a qualified legal professional to assist you in creating a living trust. 

“Why do I need a trust lawyer?” you may ask. “Can’t I write my own using online tools?” 

Although online sites may claim to enable you to quickly and cheaply write your own, this is rarely a good plan. 

  • Trusts must be carefully written to accomplish your goals
  • Exact rules governing trusts vary from state to state
  • Individuals with assets or beneficiaries in different states or countries face extra legal complications 
  • Items you forget to include are not folded into the trust and remain subject to probate

Before meeting with a professional, it can be helpful to make a list of your assets and your preferences about how they should be handled. Is it also important to consider what steps you would want to be taken if you were to become incapacitated. 

Start Planning Your Trust Today

If you read the guidelines on who should have a living trust and saw yourself in them, don’t wait. Now that you know all about who needs a living trust and why contact the experts today and get the help you need to protect yourself and your family. 

Future Financial Security: How to Set Up a Trust Fund in 7 Simple Steps

how to set up a trust fund

In the United States, less than 2% of the population receives a funds by a trust designation. 

Typically trust funds are inherited by the children when a parent dies.  

Passing down your money and property can be a difficult thing to deal with. However, preparing for this step can help you manage where it all goes and how you can help others. 

Continue reading to discover how to set up a trust fund in 7 simple steps! 

1. Choose Your Trust Fund 

There are a variety of trust funds that you will have to choose in the beginning stages of learning how to set up a trust. 

Revocable trusts allow you to control all of the assets and can make changes at any time. Irrevocable trusts happen when you give control of assets to a beneficiary. Other common trusts can be for educational purposes only while others can help people with disabilities.

Think about the purpose of your trust fund during this stage and consider charities during this step.

2. Select a Trustee

The trustee of your trust fund is the person that you will appoint to have power over your assets.

Some people use financial institutions as a trustee. Most people, however, assign a trusted friend or family member as the trustee. Whoever the trustee is, they will have power over your assets. They must be a person that you can rely on to make payments and help others, if necessary. 

If you don’t have a strong relationship with someone or can’t rely on them with basic responsibilities, you should look for another option. Some people use their attorneys to help find a trustee that can pursue your wishes. 

3. Include What’s Necessary

After you have identified the correct type of trust fund for your assets, you must write down a couple of details.

For a trust fund to work, you will need a trust creator, which is typically your role. You will also need to identify the property and assets in the trust along with the beneficiaries. This part will help family members get exactly what you intended them to. 

Throughout all of this, you will need a trustee to administer the entire process. You can take on this role for the remainder of your life or appoint someone else. Typically the person you appoint can only execute your wishes once you’ve passed away or become incapacitated.  

It is important to keep in mind that the distribution of your assets will depend on your spouse and children. 

4. Solidify the Details and Make It Official

Figuring out the details mentioned above may take some time, especially if you have never considered them in the past. 

After you have identified who will get what once you pass on, you will have to make it official. Typically a professional estate or trust attorney delegate this process. Our company has a team of excellent attorneys that can help you in the Wisconsin area. 

Finding a local attorney is crucial because they are well versed in local and state laws. With an attorney by your side, your trust fund can be completed. 

5. Put Away Your Money 

Now that you’ve gotten the details finalized, you can begin putting your money where your mouth is.

For someone to inherit wealth from a trust fund, there must be funds available. You can take your documents to a financial business or trust fund bank account. You can either deposit money into the fund over time or put a lot of money away at once. 

When putting away your money you should also consider your retirement plans. Overlooking retirement may leave you short on money in the future. Talking with your attorney can help you determine the best funding method for your lifestyle. 

6. Register With the IRS

Putting your money into an account will require a bit more documentation.

When you put money into an account, you must register it for tax reasons. Some trust funds that you create will need to have a unique taxpayer identification number. You must have this when filing taxes and taking care of legal work. 

7. Talk With Your Trustee

Throughout the process of setting up a trust fund and even beyond, you should be communicating with your assigned trustee.

Talking with your trustee can help them get a better understanding of your wishes and what you want your assets to go towards. Having an honest relationship is important if you don’t want your money and property to go elsewhere. 

After a death, handling wills and trust fund information can become overwhelming. Talking to your trustee beforehand can also enlighten them as to how the process works and what is expected of them. Helping your trustee along the way is recommended for smooth transitions during tough times.  

Learning How to Set up a Trust Fund Is Easy 

There will come a point in time when your children will inherit your money.

Learning how to set up a trust fund now can ensure that they receive the money and you know exactly where it is going. 

If you have property or money that you want to give to charities or family members, you must appoint a trustee to carry out your wishes. Typically, trustees consist of family members and trusted friends. You should talk to them about what is expected of them and where you want your assets to go. 

Don’t be afraid to get guidance from an attorney. They can help make this process go by quickly and stress-free.  

Be sure to check out our blog and contact us for all of your legal needs in the future! 

Why is a Power of Attorney necessary in Wisconsin?

power of attorney document for parent to sign for a child

A power of attorney is one of the most important parts of estate planning—and one that many Wisconsinites overlook. Many people believe that a will, the most popular estate planning document, is the sole document needed and addresses every situation. The reality is that a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney are two important estate planning documents that make a difficult time easier for a family.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney in Wisconsin?

A Durable Power of Attorney designates a party to act for another person. The Durable Power of Attorney specifies when the designation comes into effect, such as immediately or when the person is incapacitated. The designee may make financial decisions (i.e. pay bills, purchase or sell real estate, etc.), give out gifts, apply for benefits, modify investment and retirement plans, and perform other actions on behalf of another. Because the Durable Power of Attorney gives the designee significant powers, anyone considering the designation should carefully consider who to designate. In some cases, the right designee may be an organization.

What can a Health Care Power of Attorney do?

A Health Care Power of Attorney is another designation that relates specifically to health care decisions. The designee can make decision about the health of another party, especially when a person is incapacitated or incompetent. This estate planning document is also the location where a party can spell out their wishes for health care for the designee. This designation can name the same party who acts as the executor of the will or receives the Durable Power or Attorney designation, or can be a completely different party.

Why is a Power of Attorney important?

A Power of Attorney is invaluable during times when a person is incapacitated or unable to make decisions. If a Durable Power of Attorney is not named in Wisconsin, the family may need to go to court and get a guardian appointed. The process can be expensive and cumbersome during an already difficult period.

The Power of Attorney process can be done independently or as part of the estate planning process with an experienced lawyer. The document should be notarized and can be drafted with broad powers over a person’s affairs or with specific instructions about what powers and when the document goes into effect.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.