Estate Planning


Probate is the legal process of transferring ownership of assets the decedent owned at the time of death to his or her heirs or beneficiaries of a will.  The personal representative inventories the decedent’s assets, pays the decedent’s debts and distributes the remaining assets to beneficiaries and heirs.  Probate has no effect on assets that are transferred by trust, contract or right of survivor-ship.

Property Law

Property laws affect not only the ownership of assets during a lifetime but also the transfer of assets at death.  Property that is owned as co-owners with a right of survivor-ship transfers to the surviving co-owner(s) upon death without going through the probate process.


Estate and retirement planning tools include sale of assets during life (including installment sales), gifts, wills, living trusts, testamentary trusts, durable powers of attorney and living wills.  These tools should be used as a part of a plan that ensures they are not in conflict with each other.

Long-term Installment Land Contracts NCR-56 The installment land contract is both an instrument of transfer and a method of financing sales of land.  This publication addresses the benefits and limitations of using installment land contracts from both the buyer’s and seller’s perspectives.  It outlines the key items that need to be considered in preparing such an agreement.

Additional Resources

Family Estate Planning in Wisconsin (B1442) PDF This publication explains the estate planning process.  It starts with objectives of estate planning and then discusses lays that affect the estate planning process, including property laws, probate, and state and federal taxed.  It explains several estate planning tools including wills, trusts, marital property agreements, gifts, installment sales, life insurance, private annuities, powers of attorney, and guardianship.  It closes with a discussion of choosing a lawyer and an advisory team.

Farm Estate and Business Planning – This book by Neil Harl provides detailed information on a comprehensive range of topics related to estate planning.  It covers the effects of different types of ownership, federal estate tax considerations and tax savings options related to various estate planning tools.  This book outlines the benefits and limitations of a wide variety of property transfer methods including installment contracts, trusts, and gifts.  Harl also reviews the effective use of life insurance.  He compares the use of various business arrangements with an emphasis on farm corporations.  The conclusion of the book includes a comprehensive review of the steps one should follow in the estate planning process.