Have questions about what a will is? Why you need one? Attorney Reg P. Wydeven of McCarty Law along with Prospera Credit Union share everything you need to know to get your will in order.
Why do I need a will?
No one wants to think about their death, but planning for it makes the whole process much easier on those left behind and can help set up your children with a successful future should something happen to you while they’re still young.
I always say it is never too early to put a plan in place. So how do you know if you need a will? If you are single with no children and you want everything to go to your parents upon your death or if your children are grown and you don’t have a lot of investments or property, then chances are you probably don’t need a will right now.
However, my guess is that if you’re reading this blog post, you are probably a parent, most likely of a child still growing up. If that’s the case, listen up. If you die without a will, your kids will not get their inheritance until they are 21-years-old and the courts will decide who they believe is best fit to raise your children and control your money.
You read that right! If you don’t have a will in place, the courts will decide what is best for your children. I don’t know about you, but I believe there is no decision more important than who would raise my children if something would happen to my wife and me.
What goes into my will?
If this information was enough to make you consider getting a will, here are the things you will want to include:
- Who should my personal representative be in a short-term role? This person will be responsible for liquidating assets, paying bills, etc.
- Who should be the guardian for my kids until they are age 18?
- Who should be the trustee to oversee the funds for my kids? This is potentially a long-term role, depending on your children’s ages.
- What age(s) should my children receive their inheritance? My wife and I agreed to distribute one-third of our money when our children reach ages 25, 28 and 31 if anything were to happen to us.
- Do you want to make charitable gifts to churches or non-profits?
- Finally, there is one last situation we address. We typically ask where people would want their assets to go if their whole family should pass at once.
Trustee vs. guardian
In your will, it’s important to appoint a trustee and a guardian. These are two different roles with different duties, but you could choose the same person for both roles. The trustee is the person in charge of your money. Their job is to distribute the inheritance per your wishes, and oversee this role until you tell them otherwise. The guardian’s job is to raise your children until age 18, then their role is legally over.
It is also important to appoint a backup for your trustee and guardian, because if something should happen to the person you put in this position, everything will go back to the courts.
What is the probate process?
One of the biggest misconceptions I hear about wills is that people don’t think they need to go through the probate process if their loved ones already have a will in place. That is simply not true.
Probate is a process where the court oversees the distribution of someone’s assets when they die, which could take up to a year to complete. Although it takes more time, it’s a necessary process to get access to the assets of a deceased person that were solely in that person’s name and not designated through a living trust.
Guardianship must also go through probate, but the kids will be “blessed” to live with the appointed guardian until the court date where the judge makes the new guardianship official.
The difference between a living trust and a will
One way to help get your family through the probate process is by developing a living trust. A living trust is different than a will because while a will is more of a one and done process, a living trust must be updated with all your assets (home, vehicles, bank accounts) every time something changes (you buy a new car or move into a new house).
The real difference is that for assets (physical things) the trustee in a living trust does not need to go through probate like they would with a will, however probate is always needed for guardianship. While a living trust is more work for you while you’re alive, it will be less work on those left behind upon your death.
Who can help me start my will?
There is no right or wrong way to prepare for death but it’s important that we take the time to do it. Much of what happens in our lives is beyond our control, however we can control who gets our children when we die. If you are ready to prepare your life for the unexpected and not leave the welfare of your children to chance, then it is time for you to talk to a lawyer. I promise the process is not nearly as depressing as it sounds and almost all my clients say they have a huge sense of relief and peace of mind once it’s done.
McCarty Law LLP
2401 East Enterprise Avenue, Appleton, Wisconsin
Prospera Credit Union has 5 Locations in Appleton, Darboy, Neenah, Menasha and Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
4830 N. Ballard Rd., Appleton, Wisconsin
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This article has been sponsored by: Prospera Credit Union financial service representatives.