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the 37th state to do away with the so-called “Deadman’s Statute” after a November ruling by the State Supreme Court repealed the 158-year-old law.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 §§ 885.16 and 885.17) was considered by many to be an outdated relic, confusing, often unfair and sporadically enforced.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
Beneficiary Designations to Avoid Probate
Beneficiary Designations to Avoid Probate can be a Great Estate Planning Tool When Properly Used. But Use Caution to Avoid Common Pitfalls.
You may have heard that you can avoid probate upon your death by simply placing beneficiary designations on your assets. Beneficiary designations, sometimes referred to as Pay on Death or POD designations, can be a great estate planning tool when properly used. Individuals who are named as beneficiaries on your various bank and investment accounts, insurance policies, retirement plans and so forth, can receive their share of the asset or plan upon your death directly from the institution or company involved, without the asset or funds being included as part of your probate estate. Depending upon the nature of your assets, sometimes probate can be avoided entirely with properly designated beneficiaries. However, be sure to use caution to avoid some very common pitfalls. As an Estate Planning and Probate Attorney I’ve seen various unexpected results with beneficiary designations, including the following: Continue reading