Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Will your loved ones know what to do when you are gone?

If you have named children, family, or friends as a successor trustee of your family trust, they likely do not know what the job entails.  Our office encourages talking with successor Trustees now to eliminate some of the unknowns about what it means to serve in this role.

In a standard revocable family trust, a husband and wife are listed as co-trustees during their lifetime.  Only when both spouses pass away, does a successor trustee step in to administer the family trust.

In a nutshell, a successor trustee's job is to secure all of a decedent's assets and distribute those assets according to the terms of the trust.  The trustee can be thought of as a "manager," who keeps an accurate account of all amounts received and any expenses paid out.

The first job of a successor trustee is to gather information about all of the assets the individual(s) owned prior to passing away.  The length and work required depends on the particular assets and how well records were kept.

To complete this job, the successor trustee will need to have a Certification or Affidavit of Trust proving that the Trust is in existence and a certified Death Certificate.

Once trust assets have been discovered, such assets will likely need to be sold or liquidated.  All proceeds should be deposited into a checking account in the name of the Family Trust.  Trust assets that cannot be sold right away should be maintained and updated.

The successor trustee should keep a running inventory of the assets coming in and any expenses paid out.  Taxes will still need to be filed, and known creditors may need to be paid.

Once all creditors and taxes have been paid and assets are liquidated, distributions according to the trust terms can begin.  The trustees should have the beneficiaries sign a form acknowledging receipt of their inheritance and releasing the trustee from any liability.

For more details on the role of successor Trustees, come to one of our future seminars.  We will be discussing these roles and more!!!  Take a look at our upcoming events by clicking the below link:  http://www.theestateplanninggroup.com/upcoming-events/

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why are Powers of Attorney so Important?

We often receive phone calls inquiring about updating their will or trust.  While undoubtedly important, these documents generally only address one event, namely what happens to your assets when you pass away.

Equally important, but often overlooked, is protecting yourself and your family from financial and health care emergencies during your lifetime.  Properly drafted, Powers of Attorney can safeguard you from emergencies that may strike when you least expect it.


Everyone over 18 should complete both a Health Care and Financial Power of Attorney (P.O.A.).  While surprising to most people, the Wisconsin Statutes do not make a parent, a spouse, a relative or family member the default decision maker for anyone over 18.  The only alternative is oftentimes a costly and stressful legal proceeding involving the courts.

Each Power of Attorney document, in effect, nominates another person (your "agent") to legally make decisions for you.


A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to designate an agent to discuss your condition with your doctor and make medical decisions according to your wishes when you are unable to communicate those desires.

A Financial Power of Attorney names an agent who can make financial and other non-medical decisions.  An agent’s authority can be immediate at the time of signing the document or it can take effect only in the event of "incapacity"–that is, when you are unable to act for yourself.

Undoubtedly, the role of agent is an important responsibility that should not be lightly considered.  So, who should you choose as your agent?

Naming an individual who shares your same values and beliefs can help ensure your wishes are followed.  We also suggest discussing with your agent any specific health or financial priorities and wishes you may have.  This conversation helps to avoid future questions about your goals and objectives when your agent is called upon to act.

Both a Health Care P.O.A. and a Financial P.O.A. can eliminate future conflict by laying out your wishes and designating someone to make decisions when you cannot.  These should be a key part of your estate plan.