veterans-dayjpg-811a0cf798a38e8e-300x213The Veterans Administration has a program for wartime veterans and their widowed spouses to guarantee a minimum income for veterans or widow(er)s who qualify. If a veteran is 65 or older or is permanently or totally disabled for a reason or reasons that are unrelated to their military service and their income is below certain threshold they may be eligible to receive this pension benefit.

There are 3 levels of benefit, Basic, Housebound, and Aid & Attendance. Continue reading

signing-will-300x200Wills differ from most legal documents in that the person making the will, known in legal terms as the “testator,” is not around when the document is executed. This is why all states, including Wisconsin, require at least two people to witness the testator signing a will. If any dispute arises later over the validity of the will, the witnesses can testify in court as to the fact that the testator signed the document in question. Continue reading

divorce-300x225Changes in the law can affect your estate plan without you realizing it. This is one reason why it is a good idea to sit down with a Madison estate planning lawyer every few years to review your will, trust, and related documents.

Another reason you may need to revise your estate plan sooner rather than later is a dramatic change in your family situation, such as a divorce. Even when your divorce settlement dictates a particular division of property, your estate plan may still name your now ex-spouse as a beneficiary or agent in certain areas. Depending on how friendly–or unfriendly–your divorce was, you may want to change these designations. Continue reading

catIn an early episode of the long-running family sitcom “The Simpsons,” Homer and Marge are looking to buy their first home. They come across a house they like, except for the fact it is filled with cats. When Homer suggests removing the animals, a cheerful real estate agent explains, “Actually, according to the Will, the cats own the house. You’d be their tenants.” Continue reading

guardianship-1200x600-300x150One of the common goals of Wisconsin estate planning is to avoid the need for a guardianship. A guardian in this context refers to a person appointed by a judge to make financial or medical decisions for a legally incompetent adult. Ideally, the adult will already have valid powers of attorney and healthcare directives in place naming a person he or she trusts to make those decisions should the need arise. Continue reading

digital assetsProbate in Wisconsin has traditionally dealt with two kinds of property – the physical and the intangible. The latter, intangible, refers to assets like bank accounts or stocks that lack a physical form yet serve as a defined store of value.

These days there is another, distinct type of intangible property that we all possess in one form or another: digital property. This encompasses everything from your email to your iTunes account with thousands of downloaded songs and videos. Up until recently, figuring out what happened with your digital property upon death meant looking at the terms of service for every company with which you do business. In other words, Facebook may say one thing when it comes to whether or not your estate can access your profile post-death, while Google may say something completely different with respect to the fate of your Gmail account. Continue reading

Bad-Trustee-150x150Although trusts are not difficult to create, they do require a certain degree of administration. If you are presently serving as a trustee, particularly of an irrevocable trust, you must take care to faithfully execute the trust instrument’s instructions. If you do need assistance with trust administration, you should not hesitate to contact a qualified Madison probate and trust administration attorney for assistance.

Wisconsin Court Orders Ex-Trustee to Pay Sister $100,000

Recently, a Wisconsin appeals court affirmed an order removing the trustee of an irrevocable trust precisely because he failed to follow the trust’s instructions. The trust was first established over 20 years ago. The person who made the trust, known in legal terms as the settlor, operated a bed and breakfast in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The trust owned a 30% interest in the limited partnership that actually owned the property. Continue reading

how-to-secure-a-mortgage-after-bankruptcy-slideshow-300x120One of the biggest estate planning concerns that we hear about from parents is that they are reluctant to leave a potentially sizable inheritance to their financially irresponsible adult children. This raises an interesting question that you probably have not considered in connection with your own estate plan: What happens if my child files for bankruptcy just before I die? Will my estate be forced to pay off my son or daughter’s creditors? Continue reading

trust-300x200Trust is a critical part of estate planning, and we are not talking about revocable living trusts. We are talking about the fact that you need to entrust another person–i.e. the personal representative or executor of your estate–to manage your affairs after you die. Your choice of an executor is often more critical than deciding how to distribute your property. After all, if you select someone who is untrustworthy, there is no guarantee that your estate will be administered in accordance with your wishes. Continue reading

tod-300x168There are many estate planning tools available in Wisconsin to individuals who want to transfer property without going through the formal probate process. One such tool is a transfer on death (TOD) deed. As the name suggests, this is a deed to real property that names a beneficiary who becomes owner upon the original owner’s death.

A TOD deed allows the real property to pass outside of probate, similar to how a named beneficiary receives a retirement account or other asset with a payable-on-death beneficiary designation. Keep in mind, however, that the beneficiary has no ownership rights under a TOD deed until the owner dies. The owner is free to amend or revoke a TOD deed at any point during his or her lifetime. Continue reading