Hiring an estate planning attorney is an essential part of the estate planning process. Without a properly planned estate and a living trust or will, you forfeit control over what happens to your assets in the event of your death.
Contrary to popular belief, estate planning attorneys aren’t only for the extremely wealthy. Everyone can benefit from the process of estate planning.
The most important step of the estate planning process is finding an estate planning attorney who checks all your boxes. You need to be certain you are in the right hands when planning what to do with everything you’ve acquired in your lifetime.
Keep reading to learn what you need to consider when looking for an estate planning attorney in Wisconsin.
What Does an Estate Planning Attorney Do?
There are many ways you’ll benefit from hiring an estate planning lawyer. An estate planning attorney’s primary role is to assist you in creating a strategy for distributing your assets after you are deceased.
An estate planning lawyer will use their legal expertise to help you navigate the complicated process of estate planning.
Estate planning attorneys have extensive experience with inheritance law. They will make sure you cover all your bases when planning your estate and drafting your will.
How Does the Estate Planning Process Work?
The first step in the estate planning process is to create an inventory of your assets. You should also make a list of your debts. Include your account numbers and contact information on these documents and file them securely.
The next step in the process is to develop a contingency plan. This documents what you want to happen in the event you become incapacitated before your death.
It will be important to document how you want your heirs to carry on your affairs as well as how you will generate income and pay for care and medical expenses.
One of the most important parts of the estate planning process is to make sure you ensure your surviving children and dependents are provided for when you’re gone. Make sure your estate plan includes provisions for all of your children, especially those with special needs.
Finally, your estate planning attorney will assist you in taking measures to protect your assets, minimize expenses, and legally document your estate plan.
Wisconsin Inheritance Laws You Need To Know
Federal and state laws regarding inheritance can differ. Like any state, Wisconsin has its own inheritance laws.
These laws dictate how inheritance gets taxed, what spouses stand to inherit, and what happens if you die without a valid will.
No Inheritance Tax or Estate Tax
The state of Wisconsin does not have an inheritance tax or an estate tax. However, it is likely your heirs will need to file certain taxes on your behalf.
Additionally, estate or inheritance taxes may apply if your heirs inherit property from outside the state of Wisconsin.
Spouse Inheritance Laws
In Wisconsin, any property acquired during the course of a marriage is community property. Any property you acquire prior to the marriage is separate property.
If you don’t have children, your surviving spouse stands to inherit the totality of your community and separate property. This is also the case if you and your surviving spouse share children.
When you have surviving children who do not belong to your surviving spouse, your descendants will inherit your community property. Your spouse and children will split your separate property in this case.
Dying Without a Will
If you die without a valid will in Wisconsin, you forfeit any control over how the courts allocated your assets after your death. The state considers estates without a valid will intestate.
It’s important to understand the rules of intestate succession, but more important to avoid this situation altogether by creating an estate plan.
How To Hire the Right Estate Planning Lawyer
There are many questions to ask yourself when considering which estate planning attorney to hire. It’s important to team up with someone you can trust and who has your best interests at heart.
Seek Experience Specific to Your Circumstance
When you begin your search for estate planning lawyers, make sure you only consider those who have specific experience relevant to your situation. If your goal is to avoid probate, you need a lawyer with probate experience.
If you want to minimize your taxes or you have assets in real estate, make sure you hire an attorney who specializes in those areas.
Read Testimonials and Reviews
The best way to narrow down your options is to read reviews and testimonials. Most often, you should be able to find these on the estate planning attorney’s website.
If you can’t find this information on their website, reach out and ask or move on to a firm with a more thorough web presence.
Interview Your Options
It is in your best interest to interview a handful of promising estate planning attorneys in Wisconsin before making your choice.
Keep in mind that while most attorneys offer a free initial consultation, you should make it a point to ask about their fee structure before meeting with an attorney to avoid any sneaky fees.
In the interview, pay attention to how the estate planning attorney treats you. Do they ask questions? Are they genuinely interested in your circumstances?
It is very important that your estate planning attorney is a person who makes you feel comfortable. You need to be able to trust your estate planning lawyer. They will be handling very sensitive, private information.
If you have any concerns, ask questions and listen to your instincts. You know negative energy when you feel it. Remember you aren’t in any rush, so don’t trust an estate planning attorney who pressures you to hurry.
Consult an Estate Planning Attorney You Can Trust
Don’t make the mistake of leaving the fate of your dependents up to chance. An estate planning attorney has the legal expertise to guide you through the estate planning process to ensure the protection of your assets.
The lawyers at Neuberger, Griggs Sweet, & Froehle, LLC have over 150 years of combined experience. If you’re looking for an estate planning lawyer you can trust, schedule a free consultation in our Watertown or Lake Mills, WI office today.