Avoid Probate: Crucial Steps to Protect Your Family’s Interests in Wisconsin

Avoid Probate

Avoid Probate: Crucial Steps to Protect Your Family’s Interests in Wisconsin

Estate planning is a vital step to secure your family’s future after your passing. While creating a will is a well-known method, it often involves a lengthy and cumbersome court process called probate. Fortunately, there are strategies to reduce or even eliminate probate. Milwaukee Estate Planning Attorney Steve Eichstaedt, from Dahlberg Law Group, shares essential tips on managing and avoiding probate.

Avoid Probate: Create a Living Trust

A living trust is a powerful tool to transfer assets without the need for probate. It becomes the asset owner, and beneficiaries receive assets from the trust after your demise. To establish a living trust, consult your estate planning lawyer. Initially, you’ll be the trustee of trust assets. You’ll also designate a secondary trustee to manage and distribute assets after your death.

Avoid Probate: Name Beneficiaries

You can name beneficiaries on specific assets to bypass probate. For instance, designate your spouse as the beneficiary of life insurance or retirement accounts. Joint ownership of assets with your spouse or loved ones is another effective method to avoid probate.

Avoid Probate: Payable-on-Death Beneficiaries

For bank accounts, you can name a “payable-on-death” (POD) beneficiary. Upon your death, the funds in the account go directly to the beneficiary, avoiding probate and court involvement.

Avoid Probate: Transfer-on-Death Deeds

With real estate holdings, record a transfer-on-death deed (beneficiary deed) to pass the property to a specific person upon your death. The same approach applies to stocks and bonds.

Avoid Probate: Joint Property Ownership

Ownership of property jointly with someone else ensures automatic inheritance by the surviving joint owner upon your death. This includes bank accounts, real estate, and vehicles.

Avoid Probate: Small Estates

If your assets are below $100,000, you can use the small estates process to transfer property directly to heirs without a court proceeding. Specific requirements apply, so consult an expert like Attorney Steve Eichstaedt for guidance.

Avoid Probate: Designate a Power of Attorney

To safeguard your interests when you can’t make decisions, establish powers of attorney for healthcare and finances. Trusted individuals can make decisions on your behalf, preventing court intervention and the need for probate.

While avoiding probate isn’t always possible, these strategies can significantly reduce its impact. The probate process’s duration and complexity depend on various factors like the estate’s details, contested wills, and available estate planning documents.

Avoid probate in Wisconsin

Understanding Probate in Wisconsin

Probate is the legal procedure through which a court oversees the distribution of a deceased person’s assets to their heirs and creditors. It can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful for surviving family members. Thankfully, several methods can help you avoid probate in Wisconsin.

What Is Probate?

Probate involves several steps:

  1. Identifying the deceased person’s assets and debts.
  2. Paying the deceased person’s debts and taxes.
  3. Distributing the remaining assets to heirs according to the will or state law if there’s no will.

Ways to Avoid Probate in Wisconsin

  1. Joint Ownership: Holding assets jointly with a spouse, child, or relative allows for automatic transfer to the surviving owner upon one owner’s death, bypassing probate.
  2. Beneficiary Designations: Naming beneficiaries on assets such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts ensures they receive the assets directly, avoiding probate.
  3. Revocable Living Trusts: These trusts allow you to maintain control over assets during your lifetime, with distribution following trust terms upon your death.
  4. Payable on Death (POD) Accounts: Similar to beneficiary designations, these accounts ensure non-retirement assets like savings and checking accounts pass directly to named beneficiaries.

Avoiding probate saves time, money, and ensures assets are distributed according to your wishes. Consult an attorney for guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to Avoid Probate

1. What Is Probate?

  • Probate is the legal process through which a court oversees the distribution of a deceased person’s assets to their rightful heirs or beneficiaries. It involves verifying the will’s validity, if one exists, and managing debts and taxes.

2. What Is Estate Planning?

  • Estate planning is the process of preparing for the distribution of your assets after your passing. It includes creating a will, establishing trusts, and designating power of attorney for managing your affairs if you become incapacitated.

3. Why Is It Important to Avoid Probate?

  • Probate can be time-consuming and costly, often taking months or years to complete. Avoiding probate saves your loved ones time and money while ensuring your assets are distributed promptly according to your wishes.

4. What Are Common Methods for Avoiding Probate in Wisconsin?

  • Common methods include creating a living trust, designating beneficiaries on financial accounts, transferring property ownership with right of survivorship, and using POD accounts.

5. What Is a Living Trust?

  • A living trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee holds assets for beneficiaries. It allows for asset transfer outside of probate, providing more privacy and control than a traditional will.

For comprehensive estate planning and probate guidance, contact Attorney Steve Eichstaedt at Dahlberg Law Group. Explore these additional resources from UW Law School here and the State Bar of Wisconsin here.