Author Archives: Steve Kosa


When someone dies, the disposition of their personal items, heirlooms and keepsakes are often the greatest source of contention among their surviving family members. However, during their lifetime many people fail to make arrangements to direct how those personal items should be distributed upon their death. Sometimes they make verbal assurances to certain family members during their lifetime, promising to leave them certain items upon death, but those promises are never put into writing. In order to avoid conflicts over the distribution of such items, and possibly avoid a lifetime of hard feelings between surviving relatives, it’s important to properly address these issues in your estate plan.


The term tangible personal property refers to items of a personal nature, including things such as household goods, furniture, furnishings, jewelry, precious stones, photographs, books, silverware, china, crystal, antiques, paintings, sculptures and other works of art, collections, clothing, tools, machinery, equipment, appliances, automobiles, watercraft, recreational vehicles and equipment, pets, and other such personal effects

Tangible personal property does not include assets such as money, real estate, securities, stocks, bank accounts, investment accounts, promissory notes, IOU’s, or similar assets. Continue reading


As people get older it’s a natural desire to help their children financially, or perhaps make gifts to their grandchildren or other family members. But that generosity may later affect their eligibility for Medicaid benefits if they ever need long-term care.


Medicaid is a program that provides health coverage and long-term care to millions of Americans, including eligible low-income adults, children, elderly adults, and people with disabilities. Although the program is administered under federal guidelines and partially funded with federal funds, it is administered independently be each state.


With the advancements in medical technology, people are living longer than ever before. As a result, it’s not unusual for them to outlive their financial resources. For those individuals who may require long-term care at some point during their lifetime, without the ability to pay for such care, Medicaid is often the program to which they turn. For those who meet the program’s strict asset and income guidelines, Medicaid can provide life-saving benefits to cover the costs of a nursing home or other long-term care. However, the program rules are extremely complex, and great care must be taken in order to comply with them. Actions that people take now could affect their eligibility for benefits in the future. Continue reading

Say Goodbye to Wisconsin’s Rental Weatherization Program

Wisconsin’s Rental Weatherization Program has been in effect since 1985. The program was the result of State legislation passed at that time which directed the Department of Safety and Professional Services to develop energy conservation standards for rental properties. If you are a landlord or own a residential rental property in Wisconsin, chances are that you’ve had to deal with the legal requirements of this program.  However, due to recent legislation, the program will sunset on January 1, 2018.

What was the Purpose of the Program?

The original intention of the Rental Weatherization Program was to ensure that residential rental properties met certain minimum energy conservation standards at the time such a property was transferred to a new owner. The intended benefits of the program included: reducing the overall demand for heating fuels, shifting the costs of weatherization and energy-related repairs from the tenant to the landlord, and decreasing the state’s dependence on imported fuels, just to name a few. Certain types of properties and transfers were exempt from the program requirements, but many rental units fell within the program’s guidelines. Continue reading

Selling Your Home? Be Aware of Your Legal Duty to Disclose Defects

Real estate prices are up again, and you are considering selling your home. It’s a great home and you feel that you’ve done an admirable job maintaining it, but it does have its flaws and defects. Do you need to disclose these defects to your buyer? In Wisconsin the answer is “Yes”. The law requires persons who transfer real property located in this state to furnish a completed Real Estate Condition Report to the prospective buyer no later than 10 days after accepting a sales contract.  Whether you are represented by a realtor or selling your home as a For Sale By Owner, you must comply with these legal requirements.

What is a Defect?

Under the Wisconsin disclosure law a “defect” is defined as any condition that would have a significant adverse effect on the value of the property; that would significantly impair the health or safety of the future occupants of the property; or that if not repaired, removed or replaced would significantly shorten or adversely affect the expected normal life of the premises.

What Defects Must You Disclose to Your Buyer?

The Real Estate Condition Report required under Wisconsin law lists several defects and conditions that could potentially apply to a property. When completing the report a seller must honestly identify the applicable defects or conditions of which the seller is aware (of which he or she has notice or knowledge). Such defects or conditions include things such as: defects in the roof, electrical system, plumbing, heating and cooling system, cracks or seepage in the basement walls, boundary line disputes, unsafe levels of radon, along with a long list of other possible defects. The report also has a catch-all question that asks the seller to identify any “other” defects affecting the property of which the seller is aware. Continue reading

What You Need to Know About Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney document permits the recipient—usually a trusted relative or friend—to exercise specific financial or medical decisions on your behalf. While you can find sample power of attorney (POA) forms online, it is in your best interests to work with an estate planning lawyer who can help you tailor the documents to your specific situation and wishes.

How a Power of Attorney Works

Comprehensive power of attorney documents cover financial and healthcare decisions. They grant certain powers to the person you designate as your agent, who will manage specific financial matters or make medical decisions on your behalf if you become too sick to manage these matters and make decisions for yourself. A living will specifies your medical treatment and end-of-life preferences if you become unable to state those preferences due to an illness or accident. Continue reading

How to Transfer Property Without Going Through Probate

Wisconsin is one of several states that allow an individual’s assets to transfer to his or her heirs without going through an often lengthy and expensive probate procedure. This process, known as “Transfer by Affidavit,” is a potential alternative-to-probate option when the assets in the estate equal $50,000 or less.

An heir, a trustee of the decedent’s revocable trust or a legal guardian of the decedent may initiate this process upon the death of the decedent. But certain legal obligations to the estate do exist even through this seemingly-informal process. Because this streamlined, informal approach may not be appropriate in all situations, an experienced estate and probate attorney can assist in determining when to use this process. Continue reading

Rental Car Insurance – Is it a Good Buy?

Whenever you rent a car, the rental company will attempt to sell you an insurance package for an additional (and sometimes hefty) cost. The decision to purchase or decline the insurance can be hard to make – how do you know if you really need it?

The answer, of course, is “it depends.” Every driver has his or her own unique circumstances to consider, so it’s not easy to come up with a clear-cut answer for all. According to, the number of drivers who buy the insurance is roughly the same as those who decline it.

In this article, we’ll lay out some of the pros and cons of buying car rental insurance that may help you make your decision. Here’s something to remember: Car rental companies do not put all the information about their insurance policies on their websites. Be sure to call or visit their office in person to get that information. Continue reading

Here Lies Wisconsin’s Deadman’s Statute: 1858-2016

Wisconsin has become the 37th state to do away with the so-called “Deadman’s Statute” after a November ruling by the State Supreme Court repealed the 158-year-old law. The intent of the statute was to prevent “interested parties”—anyone with a stake in the outcome of estate litigation—from testifying about conversations they had with a deceased or incompetent person.

The law (Wis. Stat. §§ 885.16 and 885.17) was considered by many to be an outdated relic, confusing, often unfair and sporadically enforced. The motivation behind the law was the idea that a witness who stood to gain a piece of a decedent’s estate could easily make fraudulent claims about conversations had with the now-dead person, who was of course unable to respond or contradict anything the witness said. Continue reading

Drones Are Taking Off, and So Are Laws Regulating Them

droneblogThe growing popularity of drones in the U.S. and around the world has regulators, businesses and every day enthusiasts all scrambling to understand what these unmanned vehicles are capable of and the roles they may play in our daily lives. With corporations openly stating their intent to use drones for everything from delivering packages to supplying internet connectivity, and private citizens buying them for recreational use, the law is having a difficult time trying to keep up with these fast-moving devices.

Near-Misses on the Rise

As drone usage has surged over the last half decade, so has the frequency of dangerous incidents in which they have been involved. On November 14, in the skies above Toronto, a Canadian airliner with 54 people aboard had to use evasive maneuvers to avoid a drone, injuring two crew members in the process. In April, a British Airways aircraft collided with a drone as it prepared to land at London’s Heathrow Airport; fortunately no one was hurt. The FAA indicates there are 3.5 near-misses between drones and aircraft every day in U.S. airspace alone. Continue reading