Wills, “Last Will and Testament” Lawyers in Wisconsin

A will is a legal document that states your final wishes for distributing your assets and handling certain responsibilities after you pass. The estate planning lawyers at Murphy Desmond are highly experienced in assisting couples and individuals in efficiently preparing wills and helping to give you peace of mind.

Contrary to popular belief, wills are not just for old people or rich people. Wills are extremely helpful tools when it comes to planning for property and assets, and even more importantly, care for minor children.

If you do not have a will at the time of your passing, your estate will be referred to as an  “intestate” estate, which means that the decisions about who manages it and who receives assets from it are governed by state law. With a will, you can take control of these decisions.

A simple will typically addresses the following:  

  • Your wishes with regard to your assets or personal property, such as real estate, cash, or other liquid assets such as money market accounts, savings accounts, CDs, etc.
  • Your decisions on how you would like debts paid with your assets
  • Your choice of beneficiaries for assets or personal property. Beneficiaries may include:
    • minor children
    • adult children (including from a prior marriage, in which a will may be needed to supersede current marital property laws)
    • charities
    • other specific individuals (including relatives or non-family members) or organizations you name
  • Your choice of guardian for your minor children or adult children with special needs
  • Your choice of guardian for any other adult with disabilities for whom you are responsible such as a spouse or parent
  • Your choice of the person who handles the administration of your estate (the Personal Representative, sometimes called the Executor) of your will
  • How you would like to provide for your pets, including financial support and your choice of caretaker
  • Information regarding access to and wishes for your digital assets such as social media accounts, or accounts with monetary value such as iTunes, Ebay, etc.

Living Wills

This type of “will” has nothing to do with your assets. Rather, it is the generic term for what is known as an “advance directive” or “declaration to physicians” which is used if you become incapacitated. A living will indicates your medical care wishes for situations that require life-saving measures. You can make determinations regarding life support, resuscitation efforts and even organ donation.

If you wish, you can also choose a Healthcare Power of Attorney, which is more comprehensive and which names an individual who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

Choosing a Personal Representative or Executor of Your Will

A Personal Representative or Executor of a will is the person or persons, over the age of 18, who you choose to ensure that your wishes are carried out. This can be a family member or members, a lawyer, an accountant, friend, institution such as a bank or trust company, or any other trusted individual in your life.

It is important that whomever you choose has agreed to be the Executor. He/She should have a copy of your most recent will to review with you to be sure they understand your wishes.

Making Changes to an Existing Will

It is relatively simple to make changes to an existing will. This is done through an amendment called a codicil. A codicil must be done by the will’s owner, and essentially states that the original will is valid other than the amendments made.

Wills should be reviewed whenever you have life changes, such as a birth or death in the family, marriages or divorces in the family, if you move to another state, or if the law has changed.  All of these can affect the beneficiaries in your will or the legal process of distributing assets.

Ideally you will make changes when you are healthy mentally and physically so that the will cannot be challenged later.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

While many people choose to create wills with an online tool, this can be tricky if you overlook certain issues, if your wishes are vague or unclear, if you move or if you have any changes to your will. Also, some online forms do not properly address laws or acts in your state. As a result, your wishes may actually be invalid in some cases.  

If you would like to create a will with an attorney, have changes to an existing will, or if you would like to set up a trust and Powers of Attorney, contact the estate planning lawyers at Murphy Desmond S.C. in Madison, Janesville and Appleton, Wisconsin. You may call us at 608.257.7181 or email us at your convenience.

Our experienced attorneys can work with you to help ensure your wishes are met.