WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY
When you’re young and starting out on your own, youthful optimism tends to obscure any notion one might have of one’s own mortality. We tend to focus on the immediate task before us – creating our life, not planning for our death – some event indiscernible on the horizon. Life is sailing along day by day, but then the unexpected happens. What is going to happen to your spouse or partner? The priceless baseball card collection that you’ve spent years building? Who will take care of Fido?
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, people who have completed their journey over the hill aren’t the only ones who can benefit from having a will.
A will is a legal document expressing the wishes of an individual regarding the disposal of his or her personal property after his or her death. The state of Wisconsin does not require its denizens to have a will, but if residents die without one, the distribution of their property is controlled by state statutes. The law provides that the property will go to close relatives. If none are alive, it will go to more distant relatives. If no distant relatives survive, the property will go to the state.
Although the state provides for distribution of personal property in the absence of a will, it does not provide who gets what. If you would like your property distributed differently from how the state would distribute it, it is time to consider having a will. A will allows you to name with particularity to whom certain items of personal property will go.
Aside from determining who gets what, a will can serve other important functions. If you have minor children, it allows you to nominate who will look after them as well as manage any money you leave to them. Further, through your will you can set up a trust fund for your children so that they do not receive the money until they reach a certain age.
Though it is possible for a person to write his or her own will, the document will not be legally binding if it is not drafted or executed in accordance with Wisconsin state law. If the will is invalid, distribution of your property would occur as if no will ever existed. An attorney experienced in estate planning can help you create a legally-binding will.
Once your will is drafted and signed, your first inclination may be to lock the official document away in a safety deposit box. Although this option ensures the security of the will, it creates obstacles for those who will need to access the document in your absence. A better alternative would be to put it somewhere more accessible yet safe, such as a file cabinet or desk drawer.