Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

New Year, New Legacy: 6 Resolutions for Smart Estate Planning

Sydney Shaffer is an attorney at Schott, Bublitz & Engel, s.c. in Waukesha County. She specializes in estate planning and probate.

Every day, I hear the words “we should have done this years ago.” Estate Planning is extremely important for asset protection, ensuring your legacy, and protecting your family. It’s a surprisingly simple task, yet many people wait until it’s too late. There is no better time than the present. Here are six important resolutions you can make in 2024.

Resolution #1: Create an Estate Plan If You Haven’t Already

I often hear from clients that the process of creating an estate plan is much easier than they thought it would be. Many clients want someone to take care of their children in the event of their untimely death. Other people do not want their estate to go into probate because it will have an impact on their financial legacy. Proper estate planning will give you comfort knowing that you took care of your loved ones.

Resolution #2: Review & Update Your Estate Plan

Congratulations, you have an estate plan! Ideally, you and your loved ones will review and update your plan every five years. Life evolves – children grow, relationships change, and people pass away – so it’s crucial that your estate planning remains current, reflecting your wishes today. Additionally, changes in estate planning law may happen without your knowledge. The New Year presents an opportune time for a quick review.

Resolution #3: Finalize Your Healthcare Directives and Healthcare Power of Attorney

It is important that you outline your preferences for medical treatment and decisions in a legal document known as a healthcare directive. It will guide healthcare providers and family members on matters like medical interventions and end-of-life decisions if you are unable to communicate.

Another important document is known as a healthcare power of attorney (HCPA), this document also often contains your healthcare directives. It’s a legal document that grants a trusted person over the age of 18 the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Usually this happens after an accident or sudden and critical illness. The designated healthcare agent, chosen by you, is often a spouse, adult child, or trusted friend. Without this legal document, doctors are obligated to take any and every measure to save your life – whether it is your wish or not.

The law goes farther. Spouses are not automatically the designated healthcare power of attorney. For example. Tom and Sherry have been married 28 years and they have two children. Sherry is in a tragic car accident and on life support.

Sherry told Tom on numerous occasions if something like this happens, she does not want any medical care that will prolong her life. Unfortunately, the couple never went to an attorney to draw up the document. There is nothing Tom can do to honor his wife’s wishes.

A second example: Your 18-year-old daughter, Sarah, goes away to college for her freshman year. Sarah contracts a life-threatening illness and is put on a ventilator. Because she is your child, you assume you have a say in her medical treatment. Without a healthcare power of attorney, you do not. Anyone 18+ must have a designated healthcare power of attorney outlined in the legal document.

I cannot stress enough the importance of legally designating your healthcare power of attorney. They will help guide decisions on your behalf, including:

  • treatment options,
  • life-sustaining treatments,
  • end-of-life decisions,
  • surgeries,
  • hospital discharge,
  • medication management,
  • choice of healthcare providers, and
  • access to records.

Resolution #4: Protect Your Children

It’s essential to name the individual you want to take care of your child should something happen to you. For example, I’ve worked with international couples concerned about their children being sent back to their birth country. By appointing a guardian in their Will, we secure their children’s stay in America, ensuring they grow up in the familiar environment they’ve always known.

Resolution #5:  Ensure Estranged Children Are Disinherited, If That Is Your Decision

Many clients with estranged children opt to leave their estate to friends or charity. Without proper planning, Wisconsin law of intestacy could channel assets to estranged heirs. Safeguard your wishes with a Will or Trust, ensuring your assets go where you intend after your passing.

Resolution #6:  Avoid Probate

Probate is a process whereby a portion of the deceased person’s estate may be taken to cover expenses such as court fees, legal costs, and debts owed by the deceased. Avoiding probate with a Will or a Trust is desirable because it expedites the distribution of assets, maintains privacy, and reduces costs, providing a smoother and more efficient transfer of the deceased person’s estate to beneficiaries.


To ensure that your wishes are being met both during your life and after you have passed, consult with an attorney for personalized advice based on your situation.

Sydney Shaffer is an attorney at Schott, Bublitz & Engel, s.c. in Waukesha County. She specializes in estate planning and probate. She also volunteers at the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic. Know Your Legal Rights is sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin Lawyer Referral Service, which connects Wisconsin residents with lawyers throughout the state. Learn more at

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