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Estate Plans/Will Reviews? When should I review my plan?


How often should you review your estate planning?  If you have a complex estate, you should review your plan on a biannual basis but it is always a good idea to review your plan after any life changing event occurs. Here is a quick reference on times you should definitely review and revise your plans:

  1. Marriage. It is very important to update estate planning documents to modify any name changes and to include your new spouse.  This includes your will, powers of attorneys and all beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement plans.
  • The birth or adoption of a child. In the case of a birth or adoption, you will want to create or update your will.  You will need to include the child and likely to name a guardian of both the child and the estate if you should pass. The birth of grandchildren is also a time to review your wishes.  If one of your children should pass away, do you want your remaining children to split your estate or do you want the grandchild to get their parents’ portion?
  • Divorce. If you divorce, you will want to update your will and/or estate plan as soon as possible to remove your ex-spouse.
  • When a child or grandchild turns 18 years old. Your child or even a grandchild turning 18 might spark some changes to your will and/or estate plan. Upon turning 18, a child is now able to act as a power of attorney.  It might also be a good idea to think about a will and/or estate planning documents for the now legal adult child or grandchild.  Your adult child should have estate planning documents even if they don’t have an estate.  Power of Attorneys are very important if something like a car accident were to occur so that a parent can continue making choices for their child without Court intervention.
  • Changes in relationships. It’s easy for relationships with family and friends to change over time. Review your beneficiaries, representatives, guardians, trustees or executors to see if any relationships have changed or if the person listed is still capable of acting in such a role.
  • Serious Illness, death or disability of a spouse or child. In the case of disability or a long-term illness of your spouse or child, you will want to meet with an attorney to ensure that your estate plan properly names and protects you and your family.
  • Estate value changes.  Your estate has had a significant change in value either up or down!
  • Retirement.   You plan on retiring in the next few years.
  • Three to five years has passed since you last updated your documents. Even if you have a simple plan and you think that nothing has changed, we recommend having our estate planning attorneys review your documents every few years to ensure that not only are your documents in order but that nothing has dramatically changed in the law that could negatively affect your family’s future.

Let Petit & Dommershausen help you.  We have three convenient locations in Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay.  Serving all of Northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette and Fond du Lac counties.

Contact Petit & Dommershausen today at 920-739-9900 for all your estate planning needs!

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WHAT HAPPENS TO DEBTS AFTER A LOVED ONE DIES?

Debts After Passing Away

When a loved one dies, either the personal representative or an heir is likely going to have to figure out the finances, including any financial obligations. All of their assets (i.e., bank accounts, businesses, cars, real estate, etc.) are all lumped together into what is called an estate. If the estate is over $50,000, it will go through a court proceeding called probate. Certain assets may not be included in the estate-life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts.

Through the probate process, the value of the estate will be determined in greater detail and debts will need to be dealt with before anything is given to heirs.

  1. Secured debts

Certain debts, like mortgages and car loans, do not vanish. They are secured by something of value (i.e., the house or the car). If that mortgage is not paid, the lender can foreclose on the home and sell it to repay the debt. If car loans are not paid, the car can be repossessed and also sold to repay the debt. These types of creditors are first in line to get part of the estate which secures that debt.

  1. Unsecured debt

Credit card companies and other creditors like them are the next people in line. These non-secure debts are not necessarily entirely wiped out. These companies can file a claim against the estate. The person who is handling the estate will be required to send notice to creditors so that they can file a claim. If they do not file a claim, they get nothing; however, if they do, the Court will usually use that money to pay the debt.

  1. Student loans.

If a student loan is a federal loan, that will be wiped out. However, that is not true of most private student loans. Also, if there is a co-signer, that co-signer could end up being on the hook for that loan and the debt of a borrower may trigger a default, which means that the co-signer would have to pay off the loan immediately. If there isn’t a co-signer, the student loan company can file a claim against the estate.

Anything that is left over would likely go to the estate and eventually the heirs.

As Wisconsin is a community property state, your spouse may be responsible for any debts you incurred during the marriage. This is particularly true if it is a joint debt or you co-signed on any of the loans. Planning ahead is very important so that a burden isn’t left for someone else.

Please contact Petit & Dommershausen’s estate planning department so that we can help make sure that your assets pass to your heirs as smoothly as possible.