Wisconsin

All Saints Foundation

Wills and Bequests

Frequently Asked Questions About Wills and Bequests

For most people, making a will may not seem easy. Perhaps that is why millions continue to avoid doing it. Four U.S. presidents–Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and James Garfield–were married with children and died without a will. Today, 60 percent of United States adults living in households with children do not have a will.

Commentators say that many people avoid making wills because they are afraid to face mortality. Perhaps. But more people would be inclined to make a will if they thought about the process as a way to extend their love, care, generosity and gratitude to family, friends and charitable causes that are important to them.

Here are some questions and answers that may take the mystery out of will-making and impart the important role a will plays in your estate plan.

What Happens if I Don’t Have a Will?

If you die without a will, your estate will be divided according to laws in the state in which you reside. The resulting transfer of assets may be very different than what you had wished. While certain family members will likely receive part of your estate, close friends or charitable organizations that you may have wished to remember will not be included.

Do I Need an Attorney to Make My Will?

Only you know the special circumstances to allow for in your life or in the lives of family and heirs. An attorney will not know how you want to distribute your estate, whom you want to be executor or what charitable organizations you wish to support. You may need an attorney, however, to draft your will so that it is legally acceptable and accomplishes exactly what you want it to do.

For example, you may want your will to do the following:

  • Name the executor of your estate
  • Pass what you choose to children of a prior marriage
  • Set guidelines for will distributions upon simultaneous accidental death of you and your spouse
  • Give your property to those you choose
  • Set up trusts to save on taxes and provide financial management
  • Name the guardian for minor children
  • Ensure lifetime care for a child with a disability

Experts agree that you need an attorney to draw up your will if you own your own business, if your estate is substantial (a $2 million estate make tax planning a factor under current law) or if you anticipate a challenge to the will.

Even with a rather simple estate, however, one with assets of less than $2 millions, you would be wise to hire a lawyer experienced in drafting wills. Paying a fee to have an attorney guide you through the maze of testamentary legalese is more an investment than an expense. Tell him or her exactly what you want your will to do. Ask about a living will and a power of attorney in case you become incapacitated.

Always remember that you have specific wants and that you are employing an attorney to help you satisfy them.

What Are Some Typical Parts of a Will?

Before making a will, you may want to look at the following “articles” that may be in a will to determine how you want them to read.

My Identification and Domicile

The listing of your domicile, your legal place of residency, is very important because property in different states and property in more than one state have different tax consequences.

Revocation of Prior Wills and Codicils

Have you any other wills? This must be in your current will, and you must state this will revoke all other wills and codicils.

Naming an Executor

This serious decision guarantees that the executor (or personal representative, in some states--the person named in your will to manage your estate--will follow your wishes to the letter, even despite family pressure.

Taxes and Administration Expenses

Are taxes to be paid by the estate or are they to be charged pro rata to the beneficiaries under state statute?

Bond

This is to protect your estate assets. The requirement may be waived if your executor is your spouse, a family member, or a close, reliable friend.

Payment of Debts

Your debts live after you and will be charged against your estate before assets are distributed.

Specific Gifts

What gifts have you promised to which loved ones? What items of sentimental value do you want to leave for whom? You must be specific to avoid confusion about who gets what. Leaving your heirs at peace by inhibiting envy or jealousy is also a gift.

Gifts of Real Estate

If your house is not held in joint tenancy, you can will it to your spouse, children, or charitable organizations. Even if your house is held in joint tenancy, you need to provide what will happen to it should you survive the joint tenant.

The Residuary Estate

This is the article in which you give assets to beneficiaries, including charitable organizations, closest to you. Here you will want to be especially specific. The attorney drafting this article must be certain these are exactly the assets and the amount of assets you want distributed to whom. Upon your death, your will becomes irrevocable, so you will want to read it carefully to make sure it is according to your wishes.

Survivorship

In the event of a joint disaster, this clause will specify whether you will be presumed to have survived your beneficiary.

Your attorney may suggest other articles. By reviewing these articles before creating your will, you will be in a position to draft a document that accomplishes your wishes.

How is a Will Executed?

A will must be typewritten. Oral and handwritten wills are acceptable in some states, but for special reasons. The pages should be numbered and stapled together so nothing is misplaced or lost.

You must sign your will, certain that what you are signing is your will. There must ne present at the signing “competent and disinterested” witnesses who understand the process and would be capable of testifying, if necessary, in court. They witness your signature, then themselves sign the document in the same room at the same time.

Any will may be simultaneously executed, attested and made self-proved by your acknowledgement and affidavits of the witnesses. These are completed in the presence of a notary and evidenced by the notary’s official seal in the state where your will is executed. This process allows your will to be admitted into probate without the necessity of bringing your witnesses into court.

How Do I Leave a Charitable Gift in My Will?

You can leave major gifts by will to charitable causes and your estate enjoys the benefits of the “unlimited charitable estate tax deduction”. Some individuals plan on leaving gifts to their church, temple, hospital, or favorite social service agency, then talk about it with these organizations and their friends, but never get around to properly conveying these gifts in their wills.

We would be happy to assist you with your plans so the people and charitable organizations you care for most are not forgotten.

Can I Revoke My Will?

Relationships and situations change. You are free to alter your will with a codicil or to change your will entirely. Note that an article in your will is “Revocation of Prior Wills and Codicils”. It is a good idea to keep your old will but write on its pages that is has been revoked and replaced by the new will and the date of the new will. This may be useful in situations where someone want to challenge a newer will.

Conclusion

When you have finished making your will, you can leave the original documents with your attorney or, for a small fee, with the probate court. You keep a photocopy for yourself. Many people put that photocopy in a safe-deposit box or some special place at home. Notify your executor or personal representative hoe to get a copy of your will.

There may be no better time than now, while the information is fresh in your mind, to plan for your will. We would be glad to answer any questions and assist you in your planning. Please call the All Saints Foundation at 262-687-8654 for a no obligation appointment.

For legal advice, please consult an attorney. References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only. Individual state taxes may further impact results. Figures cited are examples based on current rates and are subject to change.

8 Ways to Make a Bequest

A Step-by-Step Guide

When you create a will, you have the ability to determine how your assets are distributed at your death to individuals and charitable organizations of your choice. And, including a bequest in your will to a charitable organization such as the Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – All Saints Foundation may be the best way to make a meaningful gift and save specific assets, such as property, securities or real estate, in case you or your family members need them in the future.You have worked hard to accumulate assets throughout your life. If you do not have a valid will or trust at your death, however, the state in which you reside may distribute those assets according to state law – not your wishes.

Charitable bequests offer some of the following advantages:

  • Easy Making a bequest is as simple as inserting a few sentences into your will, such as, “I give $100,000 to [name of charitable organization].
  • RevocableWills are not written in stone and can be changed at any time. Because relationships and circumstances evolve over time, your will should naturally do the same. With a bequest, you are not actually making gift until your death. Until then, you are free to alter your plans, eliminating the worry that you might make a commitment you could later regret.
  • Tax-wiseAside from the pure joy achieved by leaving meaningful gifts to others, making a bequest to a charitable organization has valuable tax benefits. Your estate is entitled to an unlimited estate tax charitable deduction for bequests to qualified charitable organizations.

For more information on making a bequest, please contact the All Saints Foundation at 262-687-8654.

Making a Bequest in Your Will

The reasons that donors make charitable bequests are generally as varied as the donors themselves, and they cover a wide range of personal and philanthropic goals. Perhaps the one common denominator is a sincere desire to give back to the community or to a particular charitable organization, with some of the other most notable reasons being:

  • Belief in the charitable organizationThe values you espouse are values I want to see perpetuated in our society,” a donor said in a letter to a charitable organization. “I like your objectives, and I applaud the fact that you do not waste money in achieving them. I want to continue to support your mission.”
  • Ability to make changes“I like the income tax break I get on my annual gifts to you and have always wanted to do more, but like my ‘cushion,’” another donor said. “You never know what might happen. I might need that money someday. This way, if I need it, I can use it. I can change my mind about my will at any time. If everything goes as planned, however, that money will go to support your work.”
  • Creating a personal legacy – By making a charitable bequest to your organization, I know that I am doing something for those who come after me, and it is a good feeling,” a donor said. “Thank you for showing me how to support a cause that I value—and for letting me do it my way.”

 

Leaving us a bequest in your will is easy. Charitable bequests can be included in your will when you have one drafted, or you can add a bequest later by means of a codicil to your will.

It is important to have the correct name of the charitable organization you intend to benefit. By avoiding generalities (“the hospital”), you prevent confusion or possible misinterpretations. Clarity ensures that your donation reaches its intended beneficiaries. Contact each charitable organization and verify its legal name and address.

While not required, it is helpful to notify us that we are being named in you will or trust documents. This way you can be sure that your bequest will be executed in the manner you intended. Additionally, we have special means of recognizing donors who have named us in their wills.

Here are eight generally accepted methods to leave a bequest in your will or trust. You should discuss the various strategies with your estate planning attorney as you prepare to create or update your will.

Specific Bequest

This is an outright bequest that is a gift of a certain item to a particular beneficiary.

“I give my diamond ring to my niece, Natalie.”

If the diamond ring has been disposed of before death, the bequest is not effective and no claim can be made to any other property.

General Bequest

This is an outright bequest and is usually a gift of a stated sum of money. It will be effective, even if there is not sufficient cash to meet the bequest.

“I give $15,000 to my cousin, Jim.”
If there is only $10,000 cash in the estate, other estate assets must be sold to meet the bequest.

Residuary Bequest

This is an outright bequest of all the “rest, residue, and remainder” of your estate after all other bequests, debts and taxes have been paid. Divide your estate according to percentages of the residue (rather than specifying dollar amounts) to ensure that your beneficiaries receive the portions you desire.

“I leave 15 percent of all the rest, residue and remainder of my estate to [organization name].”

Contingent Bequest

A contingent bequest is specific in nature and is not effective if the condition is not met. A contingent beneficiary is also appropriate if you want to name a secondary beneficiary, in case the primary beneficiary does not survive you.

The previous types of bequests can apply in the case of bequests to individual heirs or bequests to charitable organizations. The following items are special considerations that apply only to charitable bequests.

Unrestricted Bequest

A gift like this—without conditions attached—is frequently the most useful, as it allows us to determine the wisest and most pressing need for the funds at the time of receipt. This is a gift for our general purposes to be used at the discretion of our governing board.

“I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to [legal name of organization] [written amount] for its unrestricted use and purpose.”

Restricted Bequest

You may restrict your gift by directing how you want it used or by allowing us to spend only the income earned on the principal. Perhaps you have a special purpose or project or department in mind. If you wish to designate a specific purpose, we encourage you to consult us in advance to make certain we will be able to carry out your intent.

“I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to [legal name of organization] [written amount] for [organization’s name] [specific purpose].”

Honorary or Memorial Bequest

This is a gift given “in honor of” or “in memory of” yourself, in your family’s name or on behalf of someone else. We are pleased to honor your request and have many ways to grant appropriate recognition.

“I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to [legal name of organization] [written amount] in honor of my mother, [name], for her lifetime interest in gardening.”

Endowed Bequest

This bequest allows you to restrict the principal of your gift, requiring us to hold the funds permanently and use only a small percentage of its value each year. Creating a named endowment in this manner means that your gift can continue giving indefinitely.

“I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to [legal name of organization] [written amount] as an endowment with the spending rate of 5 percent per year.”

For More Information

It is easy to understand why many individuals consider a charitable bequest the perfect way to make a gift. Without parting with your assets today, you can make provisions that will help your family and friends and your favorite charitable organizations in the future. You will be leaving a legacy while having the satisfaction of knowing that your philanthropic dreams and goals will be met after you are gone.

For more information on making a bequest, please contact the All Saints Foundation at 262-687-8654.

For legal advice, please consult an attorney. References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only. Individual state taxes may further impact results. Figures cited are examples based on current rates and are subject to change.