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Probate, Wills, and Trusts: Oh My!

woman teaching old coupleWhat Really Happens After You Die?

After a loved one’s passing, their belongings and assets are usually left to their loved ones. However, confusion and arguments can arise if they have not made proper arrangements but how wills, trusts and probate really work can feel confusing and overwhelming and is often something that we don’t like to discuss. Here’s what you need to know and if you find you still have questions how a Menomonee Falls estate planning or probate lawyer can assist you.

What Should I Expect After My Loved One Passes?

After your loved one passes, documents that contractually transfer on death to a beneficiary or by contract will transfer once the needed death certificate and documentation is received by the institution. Life insurance, for example, does not need a will because the contract lists its beneficiaries. Other assets that are not affected by the succession laws include IRA funds, real estate with transfer-on-death deed, and payable-on-death bank accounts.

Then if they had a will or trust it will provide instructions on the distribution of remaining assets. The first step it to locate a copy of the will or trust which may be with other important documents, or their attorney may have a copy of it.

Do I need a will if everything is payable upon death?

What if Your Loved One Doesn’t Have a Will?

If your loved one does not have a will, the court will divide their belongings between qualifying family members, such as spouse, kids, and parents. Typically, the spouse is first in line, followed by the kids, and then the parents. If they have no family, the courts may end up with the assets, but this is rare.

If your loved one had assets that don’t contractually transfer on death through title or beneficiary, and they don’t have a trust most often the estate will go to the courts for probate. During probate, the courts ensure the will is official and valid or in the absence of any will how to settle the estate. Once the court finishes probate, friends and loved ones may try to contest the will. Lenders are also notified, and they may put a claim against the estate.

What Happens If You Don’t Have a Will or Trust?

Why Should I Avoid Probate?

There are three reasons most people want to avoid probate.


The cost difference between wills and trusts

How can I avoid probate?

Most people think that if they have a will, they can avoid probate but are surprised to find that isn’t the case but if you have a trust, you often can avoid probate. A trust is like will because it is also a legal document that details what you want after your passing. However, trust may function during your loved one’s life as well.

In this case, the trust is a revocable trust. This means that at any time during your life, you can revoke the trust and the rights the trustee has. In most cases, assets in a revocable trust can go through the exchange of parties without undergoing probate first.

Why create a will vs. a trust?

Most people create a will vs. a trust because it is a more common well-known estate planning method, it can be created more simply, is less expensive, or they don’t think they need a trust. While trust can be more expensive up front, they can save time and money later and provide more flexibility on how you want your estate to be managed both while living and once your loved one is deceased. Not everyone needs a trust but if any of these apply it’s worth considering and consulting with an estate planning attorney:

Probate can be a time-consuming process, and if there is no will, it is easier for the will to be contested, dragging out the process and increasing the cost. With a will and trust, however, your loved one can feel more secure. If you would like to know more and you want a Great Milwaukee Area will and trust attorney or Menomonee Falls estate planning lawyer, contact us at The McLario Firm – your law firm for life.



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