Monday, August 5, 2019

50 States, 50 Different Sets of Estate Planning & Probate Laws

As Summer 2019 begins its slide towards September our family strives to complete our annual License Plate Game.   It's a great way to reinforce the fact the United States is made up of 50 different states (for our elementary aged kids), all with different plates.....and sets of laws about estate planning & probate.

Unlike federal law, such as immigration, which is the same from Maine to California, estate planning and probate laws are written at the State level.  Leaving us with 50 different sets of laws about who is in charge and where things go upon your death, as well as next of kin's ability (or lack of) to make medical and financial decisions if you are alive, but too ill to act.

Keep this in mind when you are reading materials for a national audience.  For example, mass produced materials about estate planning claim the fee for a court to oversee the transfer of probate assets (those assets that do not have a designation or label on them about where it goes when you die) is 6, 8 even 10%.  While that may be true in some states, it is not true in all states.  Wisconsin has a fee of 0.2%, no where near the fees in other states in the country.

It is also helpful to keep the concept of 50 different states in mind when talking with family and friends who live outside of your home state.  Terms and powers can very, especially in the are of powers of attorney.  You'll find "executor" in one state, and "personal representative" in another.  Both perform the same basic job function.

Please remember that a blog stimulates thoughts and ideas, but is not legal advice.  Please seek counsel from an attorney licensed in your home state.  And may you all experience the trill of finding a Hawaiian plate outside a Wal-Mart in Dodgeville, Wisconsin when you stopped to pick up a fishing license before enjoying Gov. Dodge State Park's summer activities. Thank you for reading.

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