Trust Administration Attorney in Wisconsin

Because probate can be lengthy, costly and a public process, many people choose to avoid it. There are a number of legal strategies that will allow you to pass property after death without going through probate.

Joint Tenancy, Survivorship Marital Property, and Tenancy by the Entirety

Adding another person to your assets as a joint owner, a joint tenant with rights of survivorship, or a husband and wife as the “survivor” with regard to marital property will allow your property to pass to that person upon your death without going through probate. There are pitfalls to these strategies, however. These strategies allow access to creditors of co-owners to your assets because your property is in their name as well.

Beneficiary Designations

Wisconsin law allows Transfer on Death (TOD) and Payable on Death (POD) beneficiary designations to be added to bank accounts and other financial accounts. Beneficiary designations like these are preferable to joint tenancy because they allow you to transfer property only upon your death without giving away current ownership. One of the drawbacks, however, is that it can be difficult to obtain an equitable distribution of property among your heirs by utilizing beneficiary designations. Additionally, if you have beneficiaries listed on your assets, those assets will be distributed upon your death to the listed beneficiaries, even if your last will and testament states otherwise.

Revocable Living Trusts

A revocable living trust is a legal document that allows you to establish a separate modifiable entity, the trust) to hold legal title to your assets while you are alive, and to name trustees to manage those assets according to the trust terms. Typically, as the trust creator, you will serve as the trustee while you are alive, managing your assets for your own benefit. Upon your disability or death, the trust terms appoint your successor trustee who then continues to manage – or distribute – the assets held in trust. A properly drafted trust can accomplish many goals, including guardianship and probate avoidance for your estate, as well as bloodline, marital and creditor protection for your children.

Other Types of Trusts and Devising Strategies:

  • Charitable remainder and lead trusts
  • Generation skipping and dynasty trusts
  • Gifting strategies
  • Grantor retain annuity trusts
  • Limited liability companies
  • Living trusts
  • Qualified personal residence trusts
  • Sales to grantor trusts
  • Special needs trusts and supplemental needs trusts
  • Special use valuation for farmers

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Trusts

Allows you control over the distribution of your assets With trusts, there is no specific date cutoff for creditors’ claims against the estate (while in probate, there is a cutoff after which creditors may not pursue the estate for debts)
Privacy The up-front costs of establishing a trust are more than creating a will
Allows you to avoid costs and time transferring assets after death (your property should not need to go through probate if your trust is properly funded) Trusts must be funded to be the most useful and this takes time and attention when the trust is first set up
Simplifies your estate tax planning Continued maintenance of the trust.
Trusts are very useful and a good option for couples who have been previously married or those individuals who have children through a prior marriage or relationship.  
Asset protection  
Allows you to administer property in several states with one document  
Allows you the opportunity to take advantage of expertise of institutional trustees to manage assets  
Peace of mind  
Although powers of attorney are not always honored, trusts must be honored  


Deciding if a Trust Will Work for You

A properly drafted and funded trust will generally avoid probate and need not be filed with the probate court. Nonetheless, there are still steps necessary to administer the trust. Beneficiaries must be contacted, assets must be gathered, valued and managed; potential creditors must be notified; debts, taxes and final expenses must be paid; and, ultimately, any remaining income and assets must be distributed in compliance with the trust terms. Successor trustees often lack the time, resources or knowledge to personally administer the trust, and therefore may call upon legal, accounting and investment professionals for assistance. Oftentimes, a corporate fiduciary (e.g., a trust company) is an excellent alternative to relying solely on busy family members or friends to serve as trustees.

Contact Us for a Consultation With One of Our Estates and Trusts Lawyers

The loss of a loved one is a very difficult period. This is not the time most people are at their best. It is particular challenging when you are asked to begin making financial and legal decisions. Our attorneys are sensitive to your concerns and are committed to helping your successor trustee(s) deal with the complexities of administering your trust. For a consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys at Doar, Drill & Skow, call 877-362-7529 toll free or contact us online. Located in New Richmond, we serve clients throughout western Wisconsin.