Create a Living Trust in Wisconsin

Create a Living Trust in Wisconsin

by Brette Sember, Esq., May 2015

A Wisconsin living trust holds ownership of your assets while you continue to use and control them during your lifetime. After your death, the trust assets are distributed to the beneficiaries you have chosen. A revocable living trust (also called an inter vivos trust) can be a useful estate planning tool when used wisely.

Living Trusts in Wisconsin

When you set up a living trust in Wisconsin, you are the grantor and your assets are placed in the trust to be managed for your benefit during your life. The more assets you can put into trust, the greater the effectiveness of the trust. Some assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance, cannot be transferred. You will select a trustee who is charged with managing the trust assets. Any adult can be a trustee, but it is most common simply to select yourself. You will need to choose a successor trustee who will take over control of the trust after your death, managing the assets and distributing them to your beneficiaries. A revocable trust can be changed or eliminated while you are alive if you choose, but an irrevocable living trust cannot be altered at all.

A living trust Wisconsin allows you to avoid probate for assets in the trust. Probate is a court procedure that reviews and approves wills. This can take many months and involves the costs of an executor, attorney, and court fees. Wisconsin has not adopted the Uniform Probate Code, so its procedures are complex. A living trust bypasses all of this cost and delay and allows distribution to beneficiaries immediately after you die if you wish (assets passed by a will can’t be distributed until probate closes). A living trust avoids probate in any state in which you own property, as long as you place those assets in your trust.

Wisconsin offers a simplified estate proceeding for estates that are worth less than $50,000 if the deceased is survived by a spouse or a minor child. This is faster and less expensive than traditional probate and is also less expensive than a trust.

Do I Need a Living Trust in Wisconsin?

Creating a living trust in Wisconsin may be useful in your estate plan. Your trust offers privacy not available with a will. The assets, beneficiaries, and terms of the trust are never public record. If you choose to pass your assets through a will, it must go through probate and then becomes public record. A trust is more difficult to challenge or contest than a will, offering additional security.

Control is another benefit of a living trust. The trust gives you control over your assets during your lifetime. Although they are technically owned by the trust, you completely control the trust. You use your assets as you normally would without interference. After your death, your control continues as the trust assets are managed and protected by your successor trustee and then distributed to your beneficiaries. A trust allows you to pick your distribution dates. You can disburse immediately or at specific dates in the future. A will does not offer this flexibility and distributes assets as soon as it is probated.

Your revocable living trust protects you should you become mentally incapacitated. All of your assets are already controlled, owned, and managed by the trust and a conservatorship proceeding is likely unnecessary. While a durable power of attorney can be rejected, a trust cannot be. Your financial life is protected by the trust.

Living Trusts and Estate Taxes in Wisconsin

Living trusts cannot protect your assets from estate tax, however most estates are not taxed. There is no estate tax in Wisconsin, however the federal estate tax applies to estates worth more than $5 million. You can create a special trust called a marital trust (sometimes known as a QTIP or AB trust) to avoid estate tax. This trust passes assets from the deceased to a surviving spouse with no tax. A living trust does not provide any protection from Medicaid spend down and does not hide assets from creditors.

How to Create a Living Trust in Wisconsin

To create a living trust in Wisconsin, sign your written trust document before a notary public. Next, transfer ownership of assets into the trust to make it effective. Living trusts can be useful and efficient vehicles for transferring ownership of assets while maintaining control.

If you're ready to create a living trust in Wisconsin, LegalZoom can help. Get started by answering a few simple questions. We will review your answers, and send your complete living trust package by mail