Estate Planning FAQs

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Estate Planning

Attorney Hegard has helped people with a wide range of Estate planning needs including simple to complex wills, revocable (living) trusts, irrevocable trusts, NFA trusts, and trusts for individuals with special needs or disabilities. His estate planning experience ranges from simple wills to complex trusts dealing with tax issues, assets spread over several states valued in millions of dollars and has coordinated U.S.-based assets with international holdings. He has helped families prepare for the future of loved ones with special needs and helped preserve family farms and recreational property. 

Estate Planning FAQs

Q. What are the most important estate planning documents?
A. There are three, and for some people, four essential documents:  
  • A will to put someone in charge of your possessions after you pass away. This will make sure they are given to those you what to get them; and
  • A power of attorney for health care to put someone in charge of making important medical decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself; and
  • A power of attorney for finances to put someone in charge of making other important legal and financial decisions for you.
  • For some, an authorization or directive to funeral homes authorizing cremation, if you do not want to be buried.
Q. Can I have one person do everything or do I need a different person for each duty?
A. Yes, you can have one person doing all the work. That works well for some, but it might be more than one person might want to handle. It could also cause some problems for other reasons, too.
Q. My agent for health care is professional health care provider, doctor, nurse, etc. is that a good idea?
A. This can cause a problem if that person is a medical professional working at a clinic you are treated in.
Q. I have a document for health care from my hospital or doctor, is that good enough?
A. In some cases, yes. If you travel or change doctors or hospitals, there may be some problems, especially releasing your prior medical history to your agent.
Q. I have someone authorized to sign checks for me at the bank to pay my bills. Do I still need a power of attorney for finances?
A. Absolutely, YES. While signing checks to pay bills is an important job for an agent as your power of attorney, it is just one of many important jobs that are authorized by a good power of attorney form.
Q. If I am on a limited budget what document is most important?
A.  A will is what most people think of first, but careful consideration should be given to drafting a power of attorney for health care and power of attorney for finances first if your budget is limited. We can discuss what is best for you and why at in an initial consultation.   
Q. Are standard, online forms good enough?
A. Most online forms are not Wisconsin specific. Wisconsin has some expansive powers for financial agents that need to be cut back in most cases. There are also important facts unique to each situation that requires specific provisions in power of attorney forms. Cookie cutter forms are a bad idea for most people.
Q. Do I need a Trust?
A. Most people do not need a trust today, despite what you may hear from estate planning wizards on the TV, radio, and internet or in their books. The Wisconsin laws and tax code have changed over the last 10 years or so and many of the reasons for having a trust are gone. This is a large expense that you can avoid for a fraction of the cost of a trust.
Q. I didn’t work my whole life so the nursing home can take my house. Can this be stopped?
A. Yes, but you have to remember who is paying the bill for you at the nursing home and who makes up the rules for getting paid back for what was paid. It is your Uncle, Sam. Protecting assets from nursing home cost reimbursement usually requires giving up an amount of control over those assets that most people are not comfortable with.
Q. Will a trust protect my assets from Medicaid reimbursement (Nursing home costs)?
A. Usually the most common Trusts, Revocable or Living Trusts, offer no protection. To protect those assets, the Trust usually needs to be Irrevocable, meaning it can be changed very little or not at all by you, after it is created. Your control over the assets must be very limited if there is any control at all. This is a very complicated matter and should only be done very carefully by an expert, tailored to your specific needs and family situation.
Q. If I put my children’s name on the deed to my home, will that protect my home from Medicaid reimbursement (Nursing home costs)?
A. This is a straightforward question with a complicated answer. In some cases, depending on timing and other factors, yes. But, “putting my children’s name on my house” has meaning. If you replace yourself with your children on the deed to your home, it means they own the home and you do not. This can cause many problems down the road for you and them, including unforeseen tax issues for your children if they sell the home after you pass away. This important decision needs to be discussed with an experienced Attorney that can explain the complications that can arise to help you determine of this is right for you. 
Q. What is an “NFA Gun Trust” and should I have one for my guns?  
A. An NFA (National Firearms Act) Gun Trust is sometimes used to provide owners of NFA guns and other applicable items certain advantages over owning these items personally. Wisconsin Statutes regarding some of these NFA items have a twist in them that can make an “Internet NFA Gun Trust” a very, very, bad idea. For your own piece of mind, contact an Attorney who understands this issue and can give you Wisconsin specific advice. Bottom line is if you don’t know what an NFA controlled item is, you do not need an NFA Gun Trust.
Disclaimer: The answers to frequently asked questions and all information contained on this website is for general information only. Laws vary from state to state, and frequently change. Sometimes even counties have their own Local Rules. Tiny variations in facts, or information left out of a question can completely change advice and outcomes. No one should ever rely on this general information as legal advice for their situation. 
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