A trust is a special type of legal arrangement that allows you to specify how your assets will be managed during your lifetime and beyond. You may consider establishing a trust if you have a sizable estate, if you want to secure the financial future of minor children or if you are concerned about what may happen to your assets should you become incapacitated. The laws for drafting a trust vary from state to state. In Wisconsin, the guidelines for establishing a trust are included in Chapter 701 of the legislative code.
Determine which type of trust you want to create. The most common type of trust used in personal estate planning is a living trust. Living trusts may be revocable or irrevocable. A revocable living trust may be changed or revoked in part or in its entirety at any time and for any reason. Typically in Wisconsin, this type of trust will become irrevocable when you die. An irrevocable trust is one that cannot be changed. This means that once you place your property in an irrevocable trust, you cease to have any ownership of it.
Create the trust document. This may be referred to as a deed of trust, declaration of trust or trust agreement. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you in drafting the trust paperwork. In the trust document, the person owning the property is referred to as the settlor. As the settlor, you are responsible for naming the beneficiaries to your estate and appointing a trustee. State law permits you to name yourself as trustee but you must also appoint a successor trustee to assume control of your estate should you become incapacitated or die. Once you've identified the relevant parties to your estate, you will need to specify how you want your property to be managed or distributed.
Sign and date the trust document in the presence of a notary public. In Wisconsin, trusts do not become a part of the public record but they may still be contested. Having the trust document notarized makes it more difficult for your beneficiaries to challenge its terms after your death.
Fund the trust by transferring your property or assets to the control of the trustee. When you choose to fund your trust is up to you. Typically, the types of assets you would place in a trust would include real estate holdings, either in Wisconsin or in other states; bank accounts; business interests; certain types of investments, such as stocks, bonds or certificates of deposit; artwork or antiques; patents; copyrights; and life insurance policies. State law permits you to transfer an IRA into a trust if certain conditions are met.
Consult a qualified estate planning attorney to determine whether a trust is appropriate for your financial situation.
Transferring assets to a trust does not necessarily protect them from creditor claims.
Any assets that you fail to include in the trust will be subject to the probate process upon your death. You must draft a separate will to specify their distribution.
Beware of companies that offer trust planning packages. These companies typically do not provide a customized experience and may offer false or misleading information to get your business.
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