Appleton Wisconsin Probate, Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning Attorneys, Kevin Davidson of The Estate Planning Group / Davidson Law Office,LLP discusses important documents and considerations for protecting your family and your assets, as well as Wisconsin Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning and Asset Protection issues.
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
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.
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
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.