The primary goals for any estate plan should be: First, to provide for your well-being; Second, to provide for your family, charities and others; and Finally, to plan for maximum cost or tax savings, while avoiding probate if possible. These goals and their order of importance should be considered primarily to plan for your lifetime and secondarily to plan for when you pass away.
First and foremost you want to ensure that you can care for yourself, by planning for the event of your disability (a time when you will no longer be able to make health care decisions or manage financial affairs). In Wisconsin, the only person who can make health care decisions for you, is you. So, to avoid the need for court intervention at the time of your disability (a guardianship), you need a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Durable Financial Power of Attorney. Ideally every person over the age of 18 should have these documents prepared. You never want to put your family in a situation where they are unable to receive information or make decisions about health care you may need.
Upon your death, your agent under a Financial Power of Attorney or Health Care Power of Attorney will no longer have authority to make decisions. Typically someone will need to be appointed (or exercise other rights pursuant to State law) to access your accounts. Who that person is will depend on the type of post-death plan you have put into place, such a as a Will or Trust.
While many uninformed clients tend to think only of the wealthy or elderly as needing estate planning, it is equally important to put plans in place to protect dependents should you become injured, incapacitated, or die. Dependents can be young children, children with special needs, disabled or elderly adult family members, or unrelated persons for whom you are a guardian.
At Koeppl Law Offices, we believe all clients should be empowered with education and knowledge regarding estate planning. Therefore, we offer a free initial consultation with regards to estate plans in order to provide you with basic answers to your questions. When determining which estate planning tools are best for you, we primarily look at how are your assets owned and, secondarily look at the total overall value of your assets. We then explain alternatives and provide you with information necessary to make an informed choice as to the type of estate plan that is right for you and uniquely created to fit your personal needs.