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Choosing other beneficiaries besides a spouse

When people in Wisconsin create an estate plan, it is important to make provisions in case their beneficiaries cannot inherit or pass on property. One common example is if spouses own their home in joint tenancy with survivorship. This seems like a safe plan, but there can be problems if one becomes incapacitated and then the other dies.

Because of that incapacity, the surviving spouse might not be able to name an heir for the property. Furthermore, the survivor might need to have a guardian named. If the couple has made no plans beyond the two of them, then what happens to the assets will be decided by state law. The couple could instead create a will that name heirs if the two of them die.

However, a will must go through probate, and some people would prefer to avoid this. Another option is to make the assets transferable on death. This can be done with some real property and accounts. A beneficiary designation is another way to pass on assets without going through probate, and this may be an option for retirement accounts and insurance policies.

People who are creating an estate plan might also want to think about what they want to happen if they become incapacitated. This incapacity might be temporary or permanent. For example, financial and health care powers of attorney appoint people to deal with financial and health care matters for the person who is incapacitated. People may want to talk to family members about their health care preferences and preferences for managing their finances. As with their regular estate plan, this should also be reviewed and updated regularly. For example, a person chosen to make medical decisions might move far away or have another life change that makes them unsuitable for this role.

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