Estate planning: A key to the future

By CHRIS BUCHER - Special to The Freeman

May 20, 2017

HARTLAND ó Itís the one thing everybody has in common: Weíre all going to die at some point.

Though sometimes it can be a tough thought to stomach, itís important that people remain proactive about it and plan before itís too late.

Estate planning is something that anyone that starts acquiring wealth should start thinking about, said attorney Michael Kaiser.

Kaiser, who specializes in estate planning at KAISER HOLAHAN, LLC in Hartland and is the president of the Waukesha County Estate Planning Council, compared determining where you want your assets to go when you die to having insurance: You donít want something bad to happen, but youíre prepared if ó and when ó it does.

ďWe all have (car and health care) insurance, and we hope we donít need it,Ē Kaiser said. ďEstate planning ... you have a contingency plan in place in case something bad occurs. We all know that we will all die, and yet so many people donít take the time to do the planning for it. Itís like an insurance policy to make sure what you want to have happen (when you die) happens.Ē

With a new tax plan rolled out by President Donald Trumpís administration recently, there are many changing factors at stake.

Kaiser sat down with The Freeman for a Q& A about the future of estate planning.

FREEMAN: What are some of the questions someone looking for estate planning assistance should ask?

KAISER: First, they have to think about what assets they have. What assets are we talking about that are potentially going to need someone to manage and/or to pass to the next rightful owner? The second would be where do you want those assets to go? Is it to charity, to your family, is it kids or other relatives?

Most people know those answers readily. The next level is who do you want to manage that process of getting those assets to the next rightful owners? And thatís a concept of personal representative, through probate or a trustee.

FREEMAN: Is there a specific age people should begin thinking about estate planning?

KAISER: Most clients start thinking about this when they have kids. That doesnít mean you donít need to do some planning before you have kids, but I think as soon as you start accumulating wealth, you should. Before you turn 30, youíre ďimmortal,Ē maybe even 40. You think, ďIím not going to die, Iím not going to think about this.Ē But I think as soon as you have a checking account, you should be thinking about what happens if I become incapacitated? Does anyone have access to pay that bill of mine or make my car payment? If I die,

where does that money go?

FREEMAN: What are the pros and cons of having a will versus having a trust fund in your estate?

KAISER: A will is a tool and a trust is a tool and they can accomplish similar results in different fashions. Some of the biggest differences are that using a trust can avoid the probate process.

I think thereís a misconception that if you donít have a will, you go to probate. But if you have a will, you donít and thatís not true. What drives probate is your assets. I donít think thereís any one-size-fits all estate plan.

THE FREEMAN: Are there any notable recent trends in estate planning?

KAISER: Weíre certainly at a point in time here with the baby boomers. Weíre entering this phase of probably the largest wealth transfer thatís really ever going to occur, so I think people are definitely thinking about it. The estate tax laws drive a lot of estate planning, everybody is always trying to figure out how can I pass as much (assets) as possible to them and not have Uncle Sam take a bite, or take as little as possible.

FREEMAN: Whatís the biggest change to estate planning with the Trump administration?

KAISER: Trump just rolled out his plan, and itís all really based on income tax. But, looking into the detail about estate taxes and people in the estate-planning world are worried about whatís going to happen to the estate tax law and whatís going to happen with capital gains rules I donít have any predictions about what itís going to be because I donít know. Weíre all kind of guessing.

FREEMAN: What does the WCEPC do?

KAISER: We are a professional association of folks who work in the estate planning space, but itís not all estate planning lawyers. We are accountants, financial advisers, thereís CPAs and thereís some trust professionals.

Weíre the local chapter of a national organization called the National Association of Estate Planners and Counsels. We focus on networking and education. We meet six times a year to both network and to provide continuing education to our members so that we can collaborate and work together to help our clients.