Wills, Trusts & Estates
Congress has recently increased the effective exemption from federal estate taxes to over $5.45 million for individuals, or over $10.9 million for married couples. As a result, fewer estates will need highly sophisticated federal estate tax planning as was required in the past. Nevertheless, making sure your estate is distributed upon your death in a way that is consistent with your goals and protects those beneficiaries who need protection remains a key consideration. Charitable contributions, testamentary trusts, living trusts, transfer on death titling, and other estate planning devices are all tools that every estate planner should consider. Call John M. Kelly, Attorney at Law, LLC today to ensure that your estate plan is consistent with your wishes and that you are leaving no stone unturned in planning for your future and the future of your loved ones.
Probate and Estate Administration
Any time someone passes away and leaves assets worth more than $50,000, it is likely that the probate process will have to be used to some extent in order to administer that person's estate and distribute the assets to his or her heirs. If there is a will involved, the will dictates precisely how the assets of the decedent's estate are to be distributed. If there is no will involved, then the assets of the decedent are distributed according to the Wisconsin Statutes for intestate succession.
Items such as individual retirement accounts, retirement plan benefits, life insurance proceeds, and certain other interests are distributed outside of probate according to the beneficiary designations made during the decedent's lifetime. Jointly held property will pass by virtue of survivorship. All of the assets subject to the probate process will pass as directed in the decedent's will or by the intestate statutory scheme. Attorney John M. Kelly has probated countless estates in his 42 years as a practicing attorney, some quite large and some very modest. All estates are probated in the most efficient and economical manner possible.
A popular method for avoiding probate is the adoption of a Revocable Living Trust whereby the grantors of the trust serve as trustees until they are no longer physically or mentally able to do so. Thereafter, a third party, usually a corporate trustee, such as a bank trust department, takes over and makes all investment and distribution decisions for the benefit of the grantors for the rest of their lives. When the grantors are no longer living, the trust is distributed according to its provisions established by the grantors. John M. Kelly, Attorney at Law, LLC has utilized such trusts on countless occasions for its clients, as well as irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILIT's), charitable trusts, and a host of other specialized trusts.
If you don't want the assets you have worked hard your entire life for to be distributed according to the default intestacy scheme established by the Wisconsin Statutes, then you should have a will which specifically designates the distribution of assets to your heirs upon your death. Your will may contain specific bequests to individuals, entities, and charities. Your will can leave specific items you possess at death to specific surviving beneficiaries. Your will can establish a testamentary trust to care for your spouse and children, or others, upon your death. Call John M. Kelly, Attorney at Law, LLC for a more comprehensive description of the many purposes that can be achieved through the use of a properly drafted will.