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Estate Planning FAQ: Answering Common Questions Regarding Estate Planning

Q: I am interested in hearing more about your estate planning services. What documents are part of an estate plan?

At McAvoy & Murphy, one of the first things we bring up at our free initial consults is that there is no “one size fits all” approach to estate planning. We offer our services both in bundled and ala carte options. For example, some people will want all the estate planning documents created at once, and for a bundled service we do offer discounts on our prices as opposed to what each individual document would cost. For others, they are just looking for a Will, or just a Financial Power of Attorney, or just a Living Trust, etc. For these individuals and families, we will tailor our services to specifically what they need- we will always give you are honest opinion and not some “sales pitch” to try to convince you to create more documents than you absolutely need.

Documents offered by our firm for basic estate planning purposes include the following:

-Last Will & Testament

-Revocable (Living) Trust

-Marital Property Agreement

-Durable Power of Attorney

-Health Care Power of Attorney, Declaration to Physicians, and/or Do Not Resuscitate Order

If additional or extra estate planning is needed, we may direct you to the following additional documents for your specific situation:

-Life Insurance Trust

-2503(c) Trust

-Charitable Trust

-Family Limited Partnership

Q: When should I start thinking of having my estate plan created?

Typically, individuals or families start thinking of estate planning due to life events (such as a family death, sickness, or tragedy), on the recommendation of another financial expert (such as a referral from an accountant or insurance advisor), coming into financial gains and assets, starting a family and/or having children, or even because “the timing is right.” While we have noticed that care and financial security for children is of great importance to many of our clients, having children is not a prerequisite for having estate planning done. Even single individuals can benefit greatly from having estate planning completed (For example, if you were to suddenly pass, would you really want the state getting all your hard-earned money? Wouldn’t you rather see it go to a family friend or favorite charity?)

Q: What happens to my financial holdings and assets if I don’t have an estate plan?

If adequate planning is not in place, many holdings and assets may pass after your death through formal probate, following the laws of intestacy outlined in Chapter 852 Wis. Stats. Other than your spouse, the intestate process outlines a particular order and lineage of how a deceased individual's assets should be distributed to the remaining heirs. While at first glance this seems simple, there could be many issues depending of specific circumstances. For example, would kids from a first marriage inherit? Would adopted children? What happens if you and your spouse pass at the same time? These questions and more can be answered at your initial free consultation at McAvoy & Murphy.

Q: I wish to make a will for my children to inherit. How can McAvoy & Murphy’s Waukesha Estate Planning Attorney assist me?

Among other objectives, our main concern crafting estate plans with minor children in mind is naming a guardian for the children, crafting a testamentary trust for their inheritance, and subsequently naming a trustee to watch over the children’s financials until they are old enough and mature enough to handle their inheritance themselves. It is wise to give thought to who you would wish to watch and care for your children in the event of your unlikely passing prior to meeting for the initial consult. Sometimes the obvious answer (ex. Your ex spouse, brother, sister, etc) may be unwise due to unsafe family history, such as substance abuse, financial troubles, or availability concerns. Our attorneys would like to know these problems upfront so that we can make sure those issues can be addressed in your estate plan documents.

Q. I wish to have my estate plan specify that (insert favorite charity here) will inherit some or all of my estate. Is this possible with a will.

The answer is yes. In fact, we often recommend having a contingent beneficiary, such as a charity of choice, in place in case all other beneficiaries under a will predecease you. The will can also be a place to leave a specific bequest, or in general terms a specific dollar amount or specific asset, to a charity. The intestacy statute in Wis. Ch. 852 otherwise directs the money to be given to the state school fund in the event of no eligible beneficiary being in place for your estate.

Q: What tax planning benefits can be obtained as a result of an estate plan?


There are numerous tax benefits from having a proper estate plan in place. Of particular importance is avoiding federal estate tax, or avoiding your hard earned financials being spent on long term care (such as nursing home stays). These tax aspects would take longer to answer than this FAQ can detail, but we recommend contacting an attorney to explain to you all the options.

Q: What other estate planning options are there outside of a simple will?

There are many other estate planning documents that can either be used in conjunction with or in place of a will. These documents include:
-joint tenancy with right of survivorship ;
-survivorship marital property;
-beneficiary designations; and
-payable on death designations

These above options are used alongside a will in many circumstances. Otherwise, if one is looking for an all-encompassing alternative to a will (and therefore avoid probate), we offer many different living trust options as well.

Q: I am interested in meeting with McAvoy & Murphy for an initial free estate planning consultation. What should I bring to the meeting and how would I set the meeting up?

We set up meetings at your request, please feel free to call our office at 262-261-0834 for scheduling your free appointment. After that phone call our office will be able to email or mail to you our estate planning questionnaire. We kindly ask that you fill out the questionnaire and return it to our office prior to that first meeting if possible; receiving that document beforehand will allow our attorney to specifically tailor the consult to your exact individual or family needs and maximize the productivity of the meeting time.

In addition to the questionnaire, please bring (if available):
-Deeds and real estate tax bills for all real property owned by you/your family
-Policy summaries
-Statements of accounts
-Marital property agreements