Wills and Trusts Attorney in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Establishing an estate plan is incredibly important—and the sooner you do it, the better. However, even though you may know that you need an estate plan, you may not fully understand your options or how to go about starting one. One topic that our clients frequently want to know more about is the difference between a will and a trust and how to decide which one (or both) is right for them. There are benefits and drawbacks to both wills and trusts; the best way to figure out which one is right for your family is to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney.
For legal help in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area, including Oconto, Shawano, Kewaunee, and Sturgeon Bay, reach out to our team at Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC. We’re here to help you and your loved ones move forward.
Why Having an Estate Plan Is Important
An estate plan is a broad term used to describe the legal planning and preparation for handling your estate after you pass away or become incapacitated. There are several documents that can be used within your estate plan to best address your needs and wishes for the future. You may think you’re too young or not rich enough to warrant an estate plan--but the truth is that everyone can benefit from a well-rounded plan. Estate plans are important for several reasons:
Ensures your family and loved ones are taken care of
Allows you to have a voice in how your assets are distributed
Allows you to appoint a legal guardian for any minor children or even pets
Reduces family in-fighting and stress
Can limit the impact of gift and estate taxes on inheritance
If using a trust, it can eliminate the need for probate
No matter your situation in life, consider reaching out to an attorney when you are ready to start planning for tomorrow.
A will is the most basic element of an estate plan and is typically the first document people draft when getting started. In general, a will allows you to name an executor who’ll be responsible for administering your will through probate, assign certain assets to a named beneficiary, and appoint a legal guardian for minor children. There are a few different types of wills you should be familiar with:
Simple will: This is the most commonly used type of will and is ideal for those with simpler estates and fewer assets. These kinds of wills are simple to modify and expand.
Joint will: Joint wills are used less often, but are still an option for married couples or domestic partners who own assets together.
Living will: This kind of will, also called an advance directive) doesn’t allow you to leave assets to heirs; rather, it lets you lay out your wishes for medical treatment should you become incapacitated.
Holographic will: Lastly, a holographic will is simply a handwritten will. These are not recommended, as the state of Wisconsin does not recognize them as valid.
Benefits of a will
Wills are easy to establish and modify
Wills are less expensive to create than trusts
Wills are ideal for assigning legal guardians
Drawbacks of a will
Wills are generally required to go through probate
The details of a will are made public
Wills do not protect heirs from taxes
A trust is a common estate planning document that allows an individual to assign certain assets to a beneficiary. The key difference between a will and a trust is that with a trust, you transfer ownership of the assets to a trustee before you pass away. This means the assets can then be transferred immediately to your beneficiary without going through probate. During your lifetime, you typically still retain full control over your assets.
There are two main types of trusts to choose from:
Revocable trust: This type of trust can be modified at any time while you’re still of sound mind. This means you can move assets in and out of it, remove or change beneficiaries, or even change the identity of your trustee.
Irrevocable trust: With an irrevocable trust, once the assets are under the name of your trustee, you cannot make any changes to it.
Benefits of a trust
Trusts allow more flexibility with how and when your assets are distributed
Trusts avoid probate
Trusts can minimize tax burdens on your beneficiaries
Trusts are always kept private
Drawbacks of a trust
Trusts are more expensive than a will
Trusts can be more complicated to draft
Establishing a trust can take more time than establishing a will
Trusts require more maintenance and recordkeeping
Which One Is Right for You?
The best way to determine what kind of estate planning document is best for you is to meet with an attorney who can evaluate your specific circumstances and advise you from there. However, there are a few general guidelines that can help you decide. In fact, in some cases, you may wish to use both a will and a trust. Typically, wills are better for those who don’t have a lot of assets to their name and have fairly simple finances. Trusts are ideal for those with complex financial portfolios, who have concerns about specific beneficiaries, or who wish to keep the details of their estate private.
Wills and Trusts Attorney in Green Bay, Wisconsin
If you’re in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area and want to know more about wills and trusts as part of a comprehensive estate plan, contact us at Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC. Set up a consultation with our attorney to start planning for your future.