Wills and Estate Planning

This blog is the first in a series of blog posts regarding estate planning. An estate plan is a comprehensive plan that provides for the distribution of property at your death. An estate plan can also provide a plan on how to handle health care and financial decisions if you are incapacitated and who should make these decisions. A will can be the main dispositive document in an estate plan or the one component in the plan. A will allows individuals to determine how their property will be distributed at the time of their death.


Who Should Have A Will? Anyone of sound mind and at least 18 years of age can create a will.  A will is particularly important for single or married individuals who wish to exercise control over the distribution of their property.  If you die without a will you are said to die intestate.   This means that your property will be distributed according to Wisconsin Statutes.  These statutes pass property how the state believes individuals would like to pass their property at death, with property general passing to the surviving spouse and/or lineal descendants.  However, for many individuals the statutory scheme does not meet their wishes, and should not be relied upon as an estate plan. To see how property passes under intestate refer to Wis. Stat. § 852.

Reasons to Have a Will To appoint a Personal Representative or Trustee.

To appoint a guardian of a minor child and guardian of a minor child’s estate. 

A will is the only estate planning tool that allows a parent of a minor child to express their wishes as to the guardian of their minor children.

To make specific bequests of personal property. To make charitable donations.

Reasons to Change or Update Your Will Once a will is created there are several circumstances in which you would want to update or revisit your will.  Some of the more common reasons include:

A change in your marital status.

Birth of a child.

You would like to add or remove a beneficiary.

You have acquired or disposed of substantial assets.

You would like to change a designated guardian or personal representative.

If it has been more than 5 years since an attorney reviewed your will.

If you have questions regarding estate planning please contact Lawton and Cates