Category Archives: Estate Planning

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

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the 37th state to do away with the so-called “Deadman’s Statute” after a November ruling by the State Supreme Court repealed the 158-year-old law.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 §§ 885.16 and 885.17) was considered by many to be an outdated relic, confusing, often unfair and sporadically enforced.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

No-Contest Clauses in Wills and Trusts: What You Need to Know

family picIt seems like challenges to wills and trusts have become increasingly common. We often hear news stories about celebrities whose families spend a great deal of time and money fighting high-profile battles over their inheritances.

Many people who contact our law office for estate planning services follow the news. They ask us how to prevent fighting in their own families, ensuring that matters run smoothly as intended. We talk with them about the strategies available to minimize infighting, and the topic of a no-contest clause is often raised.

What Is a No-Contest Clause, Exactly?

A no-contest clause (sometimes called a “penalty clause” or “in terrorem clause” in Latin) is a special provision that can be added to a will or trust. It says that any beneficiary who tries to challenge the document will be eliminated from distribution of assets. In short, if you try to challenge the will, you will be cut out of it. If you try to challenge the trust agreement or the administration of the trust, you won’t receive any funds. Continue reading

Your Online Legacy: Should Your Estate Plan Address Social Media?

TreeAlmost everyone has a substantial online presence today. This means that we will leave behind some type of Internet legacy as well. Whether you embrace social media sites and use them avidly or simply accept their usefulness, you should definitely consider addressing them in your estate planning documents. Continue reading to discover some of the many reasons why.

Leave the Keys to Valuable Digital Property in Trusted Hands

You likely bank, shop and conduct other financial business online. You may have stored photographs, writings and important family documents in digital form. At a minimum, it is vital to consider appointing a trusted agent and recording passwords so that person can access, preserve and manage your digital assets.

You may also interact frequently with family, friends and associates via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or even your own blog or personal website. Consider what might happen when your online voice is silenced by death or incapacity: Continue reading

Can I See Your IRS Identification Card?

Taxes PicIf you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS tax collector, you have a right to be suspicious. Since 2013, con artists have stolen tens of millions of dollars from innocent people by claiming to be collecting back taxes. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received nearly 900,000 complaints regarding phone scams of this type.

The IRS does use private collectors to gather back taxes owed to them. But this form of fraud is so common that you are safer assuming a caller is not legitimate, particularly if they ask you to make a wire transfer or use a prepaid debit card immediately to avoid penalties.

One hallmark of this tax scam is the aggressive and threatening nature of the calls. Scam artists need to get your money quickly—and without an obvious trail—to avoid landing in jail. They may threaten to have you arrested or deported. They may threaten to seize your bank accounts or repossess your vehicle. They may threaten to have your driver’s license revoked. In short, they will threaten you with anything to get your money. Continue reading

Planning for Your Pets After You Pass: What You Need to Know

Dog PicLegacies for companion animals have made the news many times in recent years, from the $12 Million that hotel mogul Leona Helmsley tried to leave her Maltese terrier in 2007, to the full range of support that Joan Rivers left her four dogs. While it is not often that you can pull solid life lessons from the tabloids, these stories offer great advice and guidance. They show how common it is becoming for owners to plan for the care of their pets in their estate plans.  Keep reading to determine how you can apply their experiences to support your pet.

The Best Way to Protect Your Pet: The Pet Trust

In 2013, Wisconsin law added a provision allowing for the creation of trusts for the care of animals. This pet trust provides for ongoing payments to the named caregiver, along with specific care instructions that must be followed. Each trust includes as little or as much information as you wish, including: Continue reading

3 Ways a Do-It-Yourself Estate Plan Can Fail You

Will PicThere is no question about it; lawyers are not cheap. The concern over costs often drives individuals to try handling certain legal tasks on their own. This is especially true in the realm of estate planning—people will often try a do-it-yourself will or trust based on an online form or book. And while DIY estate planning is absolutely the least expensive option up front, it often causes extensive grief and financial loss down the road.

3 Reasons You Should Have Hired a Lawyer in the First Place

  1. You have a legal question. DIY providers do not and cannot offer legal advice. They are not able to advise you concerning your unique circumstances, goals and needs. And they provide standard documents that cannot take into account every state’s rules regarding estate planning and probate. So even if you choose to work through LegalZoom, Nolo or some other DIY provider, you may end up calling a lawyer anyway and having to pay for consultation time to discuss your questions or concerns.
  2. You made a mistake. One term used incorrectly, one preference incorrectly stated, one detail completely left out, or an improperly executed document—these are just a few of the ways a DIY will can become null and void at worst, or cause extreme family strife in the least. If you are lucky enough to catch the mistake before you pass away, at least you have the chance to fix it. But fixing it will come at a cost, as you will need to work with a lawyer to discuss your intentions, review your will and make revisions.
  3. You need help after you create your documents. You have a trust and a will. But are they effective? Are you certain you have set everything in motion to fund your trust? Are your named beneficiaries consistent across your will, life insurance policies, bank accounts, etc.? If you are unsure how to do all of this, you will need a lawyer to assist you. And the time it takes to catch your lawyer up, and have your lawyer review all of your documents, and then to gain assistance will likely cost you more than had you gone to a lawyer in the first place.

Continue reading

Estate Planning: Preparing a Will, Hudson Wisconsin

Need Help Making out a Will? Preparing your Will is Important Business.

Elderly Lady Planning a WillAs an Estate Planning Lawyer, I often meet new clients who tell me that they’ve been putting off having their will prepared for several years. It’s certainly an easy thing to postpone. When we’re younger we often feel invincible – as if we’ll live forever. We don’t think about preparing a Last Will and Testament until we’re prompted by a certain event in our life such as a death in the family, a medical crisis, or even taking a long-distance vacation. But it’s never to soon to be prepared – every adult should be thinking about their estate plan. And drafting a will should not be taken lightly, it’s very important business. Continue reading

Estate Planning: Second Marriages and Blended Families

Estate Planning Becomes Challenging for Second Marriages and Blended Families

 Estate PlanningWhen one or both spouses are on their second or subsequent marriage, or in cases where families are blended together in a non-marital environment, Estate Planning can present some unique and challenging issues.

As an Estate Planning Attorney I often work with clients who are on their second or third marriage, and each spouse may have children from a previous marriage or relationship. They may also have children together. Other clients may live in a long-standing marriage-like relationship and they, too, frequently have children together or children from previous marriages or relationships. Continue reading