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Who are my heirs?

When it comes to planning your estate, naming your heirs is one of the most crucial steps you will take. This is because the way you name your heirs and how you distribute your assets to them may vary from the way the courts would do it.

Without guidance in a will or other estate planning documents, the courts will pass your property on to heirs specified under the law, and in a specific order. This order follows below.

  1. Your spouse, or your domestic partner
  2. Your children
  3. Your parents
  4. Your siblings
  5. Your deceased sibling's children
  6. Your grandparents (divided between maternal and paternal)
  7. Your grandparent's children

Though there are exceptions, this is generally the order the courts will use to dispose of a person's estate.

There are also rules for how much of an estate heirs will receive, which may or may not be in line with what you want.

These rules provide a stable map to which the courts can refer in the event that a person dies without a will in place. However, it does not have to be this way.

You can choose to leave your entire estate to your kids instead of your spouse. You can choose to distribute your assets among your siblings or leave certain property to one sibling in particular. You can decide to donate all or part of your estate to charity.

Making these determinations in a will can be wise for a number of reasons. It ensures your wishes are carried out in a manner you deem fit, provides you and your heirs with the peace of mind in knowing that these decisions will not be made by a complete stranger, and it ensures that someone with whom you are longer involved does not walk away with a valuable piece of your estate.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your will, your heirs or the various elements of an estate plan, it can be wise to speak with an attorney familiar with estate planning laws and procedures in Wisconsin.

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