Trusts, Estates and Succession Planning


The attorneys on Davis & Kuelthau’s Trusts, Estates and Succession Planning Team are dedicated to helping clients achieve their goals. We help clients evaluate and choose methods to preserve and protect assets during lifetime and plan for the use of assets to benefit family members, friends and charitable entities at death. We focus on assisting clients in minimize taxes on the transfer of assets to future generations. We create the documents that best achieve our clients’ estate planning objectives and develop estate plans that will reduce the impact of estate and gift taxes. In addition, to being skilled in handling the administration of estates and trusts, many of our attorneys specialize in other areas including business succession planning, marital property agreements, charitable gift planning, private foundations and other non-profit organizations, retirement plan distribution planning, planning for disabled beneficiaries, and elder care planning.


Estate Planning Documents

Although each estate plan is highly unique, certain documents will be a part of most estate plans. Our attorneys will work with you to carefully customize the following documents to achieve your unique goals and objectives.

Revocable Living Trust

The Revocable Living Trust is the most important document in your estate plan. It holds your assets during lifetime and/or receives assets after death and specifies how your assets will be managed and distributed. Assets transferred to a Revocable Trust during lifetime will avoid the probate administration process. You will be able to change your Revocable Trust at any time that you choose, so long as you are competent to do so. Most commonly, you will serve as the initial Trustee and will be the only beneficiary of the Revocable Trust during your lifetime. If you are married, you and your spouse will often establish a joint trust. In that case, the two of you will most commonly serve as the initial Trustees and be the only beneficiaries of the Revocable Trust while both of you are alive. You will specify the successor Trustee who will manage the Revocable Trust assets if you should become disabled, or after your death. If you are married, the Revocable Trust will often be structured to save estate taxes at the second death. This is accomplished by creating a Family Trust after the first death with a portion of the estate assets of you and your spouse. The survivor of you and your spouse will often be the Trustee of the Family Trust and can utilize the assets for his or her benefit and the benefit of your children. If the Family Trust is properly structured, it will not be taxed at the time of your death or the death of your spouse. Incorporating a Family Trust as a part of your Revocable Trust can save substantial estate taxes for you.

Your Revocable Trust will also contain provisions for distribution to family members, friends and charities after your death. We will often create trusts which continue for children and other young or disabled beneficiaries which allow the Trustee to manage and control these assets for a period of time for the benefit of your loved ones. We will work closely with you to develop a personalized Revocable Trust which expresses your wishes for the distribution of assets after your death.

Last Will and Testament

Because most of the estate plans we create include a Revocable Trust we will most often create a “pourover” Will for you which distributes all assets to the Revocable Trust upon death. In working with you on your unique estate plan, we will also structure ownership of your assets to avoid the probate process, if possible. In that case, you will not need to rely upon your Last Will and Testament to transfer your property on death. The Last Will and Testament allows you to name a Guardian for minor or disabled children. We will work closely with you to explain the ramifications of guardianship and to assist you with the process of choosing a Guardian for your children.

Marital Property Agreement

We generally recommend a Marital Property Agreement for all of our estate planning clients who are married. The Agreement typically does not cover the distribution of assets upon divorce, but does specify how assets are owned by the couple during lifetime and at the time of the death of one of them. Such an Agreement is often recommended because the Wisconsin Marital Property Act sometimes makes it difficult to determine which spouse owns assets upon death without it. Without a Marital Property Agreement, classification of property under the Marital Property Act may also have adverse tax consequences. We often recommend that clients designate most of their property as marital property because marital property tends to have significant tax advantages. However, certain assets are often classified as the individual property of one spouse. For example, we work closely with clients to explain the ramifications of designating property which has been received by gift or inherited by one spouse as marital property. We will also explain the advantages and disadvantages of designating retirement plan assets as marital property. The type of Marital Property Agreement which we recommend for you will be unique to your situation.

Durable Power of Attorney

We recommend that you consider a Durable Power of Attorney appointing your spouse or other trusted person to manage your financial affairs in the event of disability or incapacity. We will thoroughly explain the ramifications of designating another individual to serve as your financial agent.

Health Care Power of Attorney

We recommend a Health Care Power of Attorney to assist your family in making health care decisions on your behalf. This document allows you to designate your spouse or other trusted person to make health care decisions for you should you be unable to make these decisions due to disability or incapacity. We will thoroughly explain your choices with respect to health care decision making.

Additional Estate Planning Documents

Clients with larger estates or special needs may have additional documents included as a part of their estate plan. Our attorneys may be recommending one or more of the following documents for you, in which case we will describe the advantages of including these customized documents as a part of your estate plan.

  • Charitable Trusts
  • Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Trusts
  • Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts
  • Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts
  • Qualified Minor’s Trusts
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trusts
  • Special Needs Trusts for Beneficiaries with Disabilities

Beyond the Documents

Our practice team is highly skilled in assisting with the transition of closely-held businesses, planning for retirement plan distributions, developing lifetime gifting strategies and identifying unique issues which may impact the estate plan which you have put in place. If you have legal needs beyond our expertise, we work closely with attorneys in other practice areas to ensure that your goals are achieved.

Trusts, Estates and Succession Planning Team

Mark J. Andres, Carrie L. Caan, Timothy A. Cisler, Thomas J. Drought, William H. Frazier, Marjorie Mitchell Greene, John W. Hein, William A. Jennaro, Mark G. Kmiecik, Robert E. Kuelthau, Charles G. Maris, Jacqueline L. Messler, Ann M. Rieger, Allen M. Salomon, Ryan M. Spott, Adrian T. Ulatowski, Debra L. Wojtowicz

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