Create a Valid Will: Comprehensive Guide for Wisconsin Residents
Estate planning is a crucial responsibility, and creating a valid will is a cornerstone of this process. Without a will, your assets and wishes may not be handled as you intended after your passing. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the essential steps to create a rock-solid will in Wisconsin.
Why Create a Valid Will?
A last will and testament, commonly known as a “will,” is a legal document that outlines how your assets should be distributed, who will care for your minor children, and who will ensure your wishes are carried out upon your death. Here’s why it’s crucial:
- Asset Distribution: A will allows you to specify how your property and assets should be distributed among your beneficiaries.
- Guardianship: You can designate a legal guardian for your minor children, ensuring they are cared for by someone you trust.
- Executor: Appoint an executor who will oversee the execution of your will, ensuring your wishes are fulfilled.
Without a valid will, these critical decisions may fall into the hands of the courts, causing potential complications and disputes among your loved ones.
Requirements to Create a Valid Will
To create a valid will in Wisconsin, you must meeti specific legal criteria. Here are the essential elements:
1. Legal Capacity
To create a will, you must meet certain legal requirements regarding age and marital status. Typically, individuals gain legal capacity at 18 years old. However, marriage or being a member of the U.S. armed forces can also confer legal capacity.
2. Voluntary Creation & Signing
A will must be created and signed voluntarily. Coercion or undue influence renders a will invalid. The person creating the will must do so willingly, understanding the document’s legally binding instructions.
3. Testamentary Intent
The creator of the will must intend for it to function as their last will and testament. They should fully comprehend that the instructions outlined in the document are legally binding and must be executed as written.
4. Testamentary Capacity
The person creating the will must be of sound mind, fully aware that they are creating a will, and understand the consequences of their decisions upon their passing.
Wisconsin-Specific Requirements to Create a Valid Will
In Wisconsin, specific requirements apply to create a valid will:
- Written Form: Only written wills are considered valid in Wisconsin. Oral wills are not recognized.
- Witnesses: A will must be signed and dated in the presence of two disinterested witnesses. These witnesses cannot be beneficiaries named in the will.
- Proving the Will: After your passing, your will must be proven valid by the court. This can be done through a court hearing with witnesses or by creating a self-proving affidavit when making the will. A notary public must sign this affidavit, attesting to the will’s validity without the need for witnesses.
While creating a will might seem straightforward, it’s essential to follow these formalities to ensure its validity. Although online will templates are available, consulting an experienced estate planning attorney can provide peace of mind, knowing that all necessary steps are taken.
Steps to Create a Valid Will in Wisconsin
Here’s a quick checklist to create a valid will in Wisconsin:
- Determine Property: Decide which property should be included in your will.
- Beneficiaries: Determine who will inherit your property.
- Executor: Choose an executor to handle your estate and ensure your wishes are carried out.
- Guardian: Designate a guardian for your minor children if applicable.
- Document Creation: Create your will, ensuring it meets Wisconsin’s legal requirements.
- Signing: Sign your will in the presence of two witnesses who are not beneficiaries.
- Safe Storage: Store your will in a secure location.
- Optional Submission: Submit the original will to the court if preferred.
Why You Should Create a Valid Will in Wisconsin?
Creating a will in Wisconsin offers several advantages:
- Asset Control: You have control over how your assets are distributed.
- Guardianship: You can ensure your children are cared for by someone you trust.
- Executor Choice: Designate a personal representative to carry out your wishes.
Consequences of Failing to Create a Valid Will
If you pass away without a will in Wisconsin, your property will be distributed according to state “intestacy” laws. This may not align with your wishes and could result in unintended beneficiaries. It’s essential to have a will in place to safeguard your assets and ensure your desires are respected.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Create a Valid Will in Wisconsin?
While it’s possible to create your own will in Wisconsin, consulting an attorney is advisable in certain situations. If you anticipate potential contests or wish to disinherit a spouse, legal guidance is recommended. An attorney can provide insight into specific scenarios where professional assistance is beneficial.
Requirements for Making and Signing a Will in Wisconsin
To create a valid will in Wisconsin:
- You must be an individual aged 18 or older.
- You must be of sound mind.
- Your will can dispose of property you own when you make the will, as well as future acquisitions.
Your will must be a physical document, not digital or electronic.
Notarization of Wills in Wisconsin
While notarization is not required to make a will in Wisconsin, you can choose to make your will “self-proving” by going to a notary. This speeds up the probate process, as the court can accept the will without contacting witnesses. A self-proving will includes an affidavit signed by you and your witnesses, verifying the will’s authenticity.
Naming a Personal Representative
It’s advisable to name a personal representative in your will. This person ensures your wishes are carried out after your passing. Without a named representative, the probate court will appoint someone to handle your estate.
Revoking or Changing Your Will
In Wisconsin, you can revoke or change your will at any time unless you signed a contract not to revoke it. Revocation methods include destroying the will, creating a new will with contradictory terms, or ordering someone else to destroy it in your presence.
Making a Digital or Electronic Will
As of now, Wisconsin does not permit digital or electronic wills. A valid will in the state must be a physical, written document.
Create a Valid Will Today
Don’t leave the fate of your assets and loved ones to chance. Creating a valid will in Wisconsin is a responsible and necessary step in estate planning. Contact an experienced Milwaukee estate planning attorney, such as Attorney Steve Eichstaedt at Dahlberg Law Group, to ensure your will meets all legal requirements and provides the protection and peace of mind you desire.
For more information on the estate planning process, you can visit these valuable resources:
Secure your legacy and protect your family – contact us at Dahlberg Law Group today.