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Challenging Times, Challenging Conversations: ESTATE PLANNING

By MPL Staff on Apr 8, 2020 9:22 AM

If you don't have a will yet, you are in good company. 60% of American adults do not have a will or living trust. But don't worry, creating a will is easier than it has ever been. You can get started using free resources at Milwaukee Public Library.

Is it really that easy? For many individuals, it can be. But remember, depending upon your circumstances, estate planning can be a complex process, and for individuals who have a more complicated estate, consulting a professional is always the best idea. At this time, legal and financial professionals are considered essential workers, so you should be able to find a professional if you need to. 

Check out this information presented by a Milwaukee Public Library Reference Librarian; (Source: State Bar of Wisconsin).

Disclaimer: None of this information constitutes legal, financial, or other professional advice. You should consult your professional advisor for legal, financial, or other advice.

Some basics
A will is a written document that allows you to designate:
  • who will receive your estate after you die
  • who will raise your children if you die while they're still minors, and your spouse is unavailable to care for them
  • whether your beneficiaries receive their inheritance outright or in a trust
  • and who will serve as your personal representative – that is, the person who will pay your bills and taxes and distribute the rest of your estate to your beneficiaries.

Chapter 853 of Wisconsin State Statutes covers Wills in detail.

Why do I need a will?

If you do not have a will at the time of your death, the state will make determinations about who will inherit your property, and who will care for your

Many individuals prefer not to leave these important decisions to the state.

Chapter 852 of the Wisconsin State Statutes covers who inherits your estate without a will. In Wisconsin, your closest living relatives inherit your estate in the absence of a will.

If you leave behind minor children and have named no guardian in a will, the court will choose a guardian. It is crucial to have a will in place to ensure children/dependents are cared for according to your wishes.

Can I do it myself?

Absolutely! The Milwaukee Public Library has resources to help you in the estate planning process.

E-resources (available immediately!)

Gale Legal Forms - Gale Legal Forms contains hundreds of fill-in-the-blank legal documents. These forms are specifically geared to Wisconsin residents and comply with Wisconsin law. They cover all kinds of topics, including Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Power of Attorney.
Note: Gale Legal Forms is an MPL subscription database. Available for use by remote access only to City of Milwaukee residents/library cardholders.

The Everything Wills & Estate Planning Book - Ebook available through Overdrive

Print Resources (available once the Safer at Home Order ends)

For a full list of materials, perform a subject search in CountyCat using the words:

  • Wills
  • Estate Planning
Is a DIY will legal in Wisconsin?

It can be! As long as it meets certain legal requirements.

To be valid, your will must be in writing, and you must date and sign it. At least two witnesses also must sign the will. They can do this after they watch you sign it. If they weren't present then, you can state to them that the signature is yours, and then the witnesses can sign. The witnesses should not be beneficiaries named in the will or your heirs as designated by law.

I'm still confused.

Wills/Estate Planning: Answering Your Legal Questions

This informative list of FAQs was complied by the State Bar of Wisconsin. This is a great place to find quick answers to common questions.

Wisconsin State Law Library Legal Topics - Find extensive lists of resources on a variety of topics including:

Trusts & Wills
Estate Planning
Power of Attorney

Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics-Estate Planning Clinic

This clinic can be used to create the following documents: Basic Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney for Health Care, and Power of Attorney for Finances

Note: Due to COVID-19, the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics are not currently accepting appointments. Please complete this request form to be contacted when they reopen.

Milwaukee Bar Association's Lawyer Referral and Information Service

Free over the phone referral service for anyone that has a legal question or is seeking to obtain legal counsel. Call (414) 274-6768 to speak to a trained interviewer. Note: Hours or services may differ due to COVID-19.

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