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Estate planning is for everyone

Many people living in Wisconsin understand the importance of having a will. They know that a will can protect their assets and prevent their loved ones from having to go through a lengthy court process. However, there is more to estate planning than writing a will, and even those who have modest assets can benefit from certain legal strategies.

While a will is a critical component of an estate plan, it has its limitations. A will only covers assets owned by the deceased that are not earmarked for a beneficiary. Insurance policies and retirement accounts, for example, designate a beneficiary or beneficiaries. Individuals and couples may wish to regularly review all of their policies and accounts and make sure that they are up-to-date in specifying who will benefit from or inherit them.

It may also be possible to facilitate the smooth transition of assets that would normally be covered under a will to avoid probate entirely. For example, it could be possible for a homeowner to file a "transfer on death" deed in the name of the person who they wish to inherit the property. Once the homeowner passes away, the beneficiary assumes ownership of the home. Similarly, changes to the title or deed of other valuable property, such as a vehicle, could be updated to include the name of the beneficiary.

Couples and individuals who are concerned about estate planning issues may benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney. After reviewing the client's assets, debts and family situation, the lawyer could make recommendations regarding wills, end-of-life decision making and tax strategies for protecting the value of the estate.

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