Author Archives: Steve Kosa

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 Autos.com, 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

Lending Money to Family Members? Be Mindful of These Common Pitfalls.

loanWhen one family member lends money to another, both parties often believe that the deal they make is just between the two of them. But in the eyes of legal and tax authorities, the lending business is just that—a business. These seemingly private activities can come with some very business-like strings attached.

Here you’ll learn a few items that you should keep in mind if and when you decide to make a loan to a family member, friend or some other individual in your life.

Think About How the IRS Treats Interest

In a deal between relatives or friends, the “lender” sometimes decides not to charge interest on the loan. Perhaps the loan amount is small, or perhaps there is a feeling of ill will that parties tie to the thought of interest.

But if you do not charge interest, or if you charge a rate lower than something called the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR), be prepared for tax consequences. The IRS will tax the maker of the loan on the amount of interest that the lender should have charged. Continue reading

Big Mistakes & Broken Cars: How Wisconsin Law Protects Car Buyers

lemonlawThe decision to buy a vehicle is one of the most significant purchase decisions a person makes. For most Wisconsin families, car payments make a big impact on family finances. Add unexpected problems with the car, and costs skyrocket due to repair costs and expenses associated with not having reliable transportation.

Does this sound all too familiar to you? Are you experiencing transportation and financial setbacks due to a troublesome car? Is the stress of this overwhelming you?

If you answered “yes,” you probably want to know if there is anything you can do to recoup all of your losses. Could your broken car, in fact, be a “lemon?” If it is, there is some good news. Wisconsin’s Lemon Laws protect you and others like you who buy or lease new vehicles from dealerships. Continue reading

Wisconsin Adverse Possession Law: Do Recent Changes Matter?

FenceThe legal doctrine of adverse possession allows a person or entity to assume ownership of another’s property if that person or entity adversely possessed the land and certain conditions have been met. One might think that this old common-law doctrine is no longer relevant. Yet, adverse possession claims continue to cause numerous real estate disputes in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

What Is Adverse Possession?

A typical adverse possession case involves a fence. Take this situation as an example: one farmer accidentally builds a fence 12 inches over the property line of his neighbor’s land. After a certain period, usually 20 years, the farmer who built the fence could obtain title to those 12 inches under the law of adverse possession. This 20-year period is shortened to 10 years if the claim is supported by a written instrument that transferred the property to the adverse possessor. It is shortened to 7 years if supported by a written instrument and the adverse possessor had been paying the real estate taxes during that period. Continue reading