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Why adults should create an estate plan

Wisconsin residents may be able to use a series of documents that determine what happens to their property after they die. The documents can also be used to determine who cares for a minor child after a parent passes. Anyone who is 18 or older can benefit from having at least a will as part of their estate plans. A will can clarify who gets certain assets and why, which can prevent a costly court battle.

Without such a document, state law could determine who gets a car, money in a bank account or other property. For example, a parent could get an item that would have otherwise been given to an uncle, a close friend or a charitable organization. With a will, a person can also state who is not entitled to inherit anything from his or her estate.

Individuals can change or update their will as life events unfold. For instance, they may outlive a beneficiary or have a child who is not accounted for in the most recent version on file. To be considered valid, it will need to be in writing, signed by two witnesses and signed by the person who created it. Other estate plan documents that a person may use include a power of attorney, a guardianship nomination and a medical directive.

Creating a trust or using beneficiary designations may be ideal for those who consider probate avoidance a top priority. However, a will may also give individuals a level of control over how their assets are distributed even if it needs to go through probate. An attorney may explain how to create a valid will, when it goes into effect and how it differs from a living trust or other available estate planning tools.

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