Wyoming Estate Planning Laws
March 16, 2023
Wyoming estate planning laws dictate how individuals can plan for the distribution of their assets and property after they pass away. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
- Wills: A will is a legal document that outlines how an individual wants their assets to be distributed after their death. In Wyoming, a will must be signed by the testator (the person creating the will) and witnessed by two people. The state also recognizes holographic wills, which are written by hand, as long as they meet certain requirements.
- Intestate succession: If an individual dies without a will, their assets will be distributed according to Wyoming’s laws of intestate succession. Generally, this means that assets will be distributed to the individual’s closest relatives.
- Trusts: A trust is a legal arrangement where one party (the trustee) manages assets on behalf of another party (the beneficiary). Wyoming law recognizes both revocable and irrevocable trusts.
- Probate: Probate is the process of administering a deceased person’s estate, including distributing assets to heirs and paying any outstanding debts. In Wyoming, the probate process is typically handled by the district court in the county where the deceased person lived.
- Estate taxes: Wyoming does not have a state-level estate tax. However, individuals with large estates may still be subject to federal estate taxes.
It’s important to note that estate planning laws can be complex and vary depending on individual circumstances. It’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced attorney when creating an estate plan.
A will is a legal document that outlines how an individual’s assets and property should be distributed after their death. Here are some key points to keep in mind regarding wills:
- Requirements: For a will to be valid in most states, including Wyoming, the testator (the person creating the will) must be of sound mind and at least 18 years old. The will must also be signed by the testator and witnessed by two people who are not beneficiaries of the will.
- Executors: The testator should name an executor in their will who will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will. The executor should be trustworthy and capable of managing the testator’s assets.
- Beneficiaries: The testator should identify who will receive their assets in the will. It’s important to keep the will updated to reflect any changes in circumstances or relationships.
- Guardianship: If the testator has minor children, they should name a guardian for them in the will.
- Holographic wills: Wyoming recognizes holographic wills, which are handwritten wills that do not require witnesses. However, they must be entirely in the testator’s handwriting and signed by them.
- Probate: After the testator dies, their will must go through the probate process to ensure that the instructions are carried out correctly.
It’s important to consult with an experienced attorney when creating a will to ensure that it meets all legal requirements and accurately reflects the testator’s wishes.
Intestate succession is the process of distributing a deceased person’s assets when they did not have a valid will or their will was deemed invalid. Here are some key points to keep in mind regarding intestate succession in Wyoming:
- Distribution: In Wyoming, if a person dies without a will, their assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestate succession laws. Generally, this means that the assets will be distributed to the deceased person’s closest relatives, such as their spouse, children, and parents.
- Spouse: If the deceased person is survived by a spouse but has no children, the spouse will inherit all of the assets. If the deceased person is survived by a spouse and children, the spouse will inherit a portion of the assets and the children will inherit the remaining portion.
- Children: If the deceased person is survived by children but has no spouse, the children will inherit all of the assets. If the deceased person is survived by both a spouse and children, the children will inherit a portion of the assets and the spouse will inherit the remaining portion.
- Other relatives: If the deceased person is not survived by a spouse or children, their assets will be distributed to their parents, siblings, or other relatives in a specific order outlined by Wyoming law.
It’s important to note that intestate succession can be complex and may not reflect the deceased person’s actual wishes. To avoid this, it’s recommended to create a valid will that clearly outlines how the individual wants their assets distributed after their death.
A trust is a legal arrangement in which one party (the trustee) holds and manages assets on behalf of another party (the beneficiary). Here are some key points to keep in mind regarding trusts in Wyoming:
- Types of trusts: Wyoming recognizes both revocable and irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust can be changed or terminated by the person who created it (the grantor) during their lifetime, while an irrevocable trust cannot.
- Trustee: The trustee is responsible for managing the assets in the trust and distributing them to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust. The grantor can name themselves as trustee or choose another person or entity to serve as trustee.
- Beneficiaries: The beneficiaries are the individuals or entities that will receive the assets in the trust. The grantor can name specific beneficiaries or leave it up to the discretion of the trustee.
- Probate avoidance: One of the main advantages of trust is that it can help avoid the probate process, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Assets in a trust are generally not subject to probate, which means they can be distributed more quickly and with less expense.
- Asset protection: A trust can also provide asset protection for the grantor’s beneficiaries. For example, if a beneficiary is going through a divorce or has significant debts, their assets in the trust may be protected from creditors or a former spouse.
- Estate tax planning: A trust can also be used for estate tax planning purposes. For example, a grantor may set up a trust to benefit their children or grandchildren, with the assets in the trust being exempt from estate taxes upon the grantor’s death.
It’s important to consult with an experienced attorney when creating a trust to ensure that it meets all legal requirements and achieves the desired goals.
Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies to distribute their assets according to their will or, if they did not have a valid will, according to state law. Here are some key points to keep in mind regarding probate in Wyoming:
- Court supervision: Probate in Wyoming is supervised by the district court in the county where the deceased person lived. The court oversees the process of paying off the deceased person’s debts and distributing their assets to their heirs or beneficiaries.
- Personal representative: The personal representative is the person responsible for managing the deceased person’s assets during the probate process. If the deceased person had a valid will, the personal representative is usually the executor named in the will. If there is no will or no executor is named, the court will appoint a personal representative.
- Notice to creditors: The personal representative must notify any known creditors of the deceased person’s death and publish a notice in a local newspaper to alert other potential creditors.
- Debts and taxes: During probate, the personal representative must use the deceased person’s assets to pay off any outstanding debts and taxes. If the assets are not sufficient to cover all of the debts, the court will prioritize which debts are paid first.
- Distribution of assets: Once all debts and taxes have been paid, the remaining assets are distributed to the deceased person’s heirs or beneficiaries according to their will or state law.
- Duration: The length of the probate process can vary depending on the complexity of the estate and whether there are any disputes among the heirs or beneficiaries. In Wyoming, the probate process typically takes six to nine months to complete.
It’s important to consult with an experienced attorney when dealing with probate to ensure that all legal requirements are met and to navigate any potential issues that may arise.
Estate taxes are taxes levied on the transfer of property after a person’s death. In Wyoming, there is no state-level estate tax or inheritance tax. However, estates may still be subject to federal estate tax.
The federal estate tax is a tax on the transfer of property at death. The tax applies to the total value of a person’s assets at the time of their death, including real estate, investments, and personal property. The federal estate tax exemption is adjusted annually for inflation, and in 2021 it is $11.7 million per person.
If the value of a person’s estate exceeds the exemption amount, the excess amount is taxed at a rate of 40%. However, several deductions and exemptions can be used to reduce or eliminate the amount of federal estate tax owed.
It’s important to note that estate tax planning is a complex area of law, and it’s recommended to work with an experienced attorney or financial advisor to develop a strategy that meets your specific needs and goals.