Law Declares Living Man Dead

I’m not even sure what to say about this.  A man is declared legally dead after disappearing for almost a decade.  When he reappears, the man isn’t allowed to be brought back to life in a legal sense.  This sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone.  What I’m wondering now, is that since he’s legally dead, does he need to abide by other laws?  If he’s not allowed to enjoy the benefits of a living person (in this case collecting social security), how can he be required to abide by the restrictions of society?  How can a dead man be convicted of a crime and put in jail?  Aside from the absurdities in this case, it also shows how the legal system is often closed to people with limited means.  The articles discusses that a federal court case could reverse the ruling, but that the man can’t afford to petition the federal court.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.

Even Murderers Can Find Someone To Love Them

A man in San Diego was sentenced to 53 years for murder.  Minutes later, the same judge sentenced him to a lifetime of wedded bliss (?) by performing his marriage ceremony.  The judge also baked the couple a cake.  I guess this was done in the name of government efficiency?

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.

Does Horn Honking Equal “Terrorism”?

A man in Ohio is suing others for honking their horns.  While it is easy to laugh at this, if his allegations are true, he probably has a case for harassment.  I’m not licensed in Ohio, so I’m not certain what the law there is, but in Wisconsin the alleged acts could definitely constitute harassment.  Wisconsin defines harassment in part, as:  “Engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts which harass or intimidate another person and which serve no legitimate purpose.”

For those curious, terrorism is defined by Wisconsin Statute as: a felony under ch. 939 to 951 that is committed with intent to terrorize and is committed under any of the following circumstances:

1.  The person committing the felony causes bodily harm, great bodily harm, or death to another.
 2.  The person committing the felony causes damage to the property of another and the total property damaged is reduced in value by $25,000 or more.  For purposes of this subdivision, property is reduced in value by the amount that it would cost either to repair or replace it, whichever is less.
3.  The person committing the felony uses force or violence or the threat of force or violence.
Honking horns is not terrorism, “small town” or not.

Tactics such as the ones allegedly committed the defendants in this case are common. When there is a personal dispute, especially when it involves neighbors, people will resort to all sorts of childish acts in order to get under the other person’s skin.  In addition, people often use the court system by suing other people to get under their skin.  In this case, if the defendant’s side is true, that is exactly what is happening here.  I don’t know the facts, but I thought it was interesting, and as outlandish as it seems, much more common than most would think.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.

 

BUYER BEWARE: Don’t Overpay for Your Deed

Our office drafts and files many real estate documents, including various deeds.  On occasion, after filing the deeds, our clients will receive an important looking bill in the mail with large bold print stating “DEED PROCESSING NOTICE” or something similar.  The notice will accurately state the date that a deed was filed, list the correct address of the property (which are easily obtainable thorough public records), and contain some other important looking information and numbers which I can only describe as complete gibberish.  The notice goes on to give you a “Compliance Response Date” and tells you that you must pay this fee to receive a copy of your deed and a “Complete Property Profile”.  The notice I have in front of me has a fee of $83.00.

DO NOT PAY THIS FEE!  The solicitation is a scam.  I should be careful in calling it a scam, because if you actually read the entire notice, it tells you over and over again that it is a scam.  While the company may be providing a service in obtaining a deed for you, you can obtain this information for about $5 on your own.  That $5 fee assumes that you won’t be receiving the original deed that was just filed on your behalf in the mail for free, or don’t already have it in your possession, both of which are likely.  In addition, I have no idea what a “property profile” is, and it isn’t explained anywhere.

This notice is very clever and very official looking.  I can see how someone who is unfamiliar with real estate transactions could be fooled into paying the fee.  If you receive any notice like this, please disregard it.  If you need a copy of your deed, contact the register of deeds in your county, or the attorney or title company that handled your transaction.  If you aren’t sure if the notice you have received is legitimate, contact your attorney before sending any money or information.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.

Jury Duty Technology Now Available for Jurors On The Go

New Jersey is offering text message alerts to jurors to notify them if they need to report. I was recently on a jury pool here in Wisconsin and needed to call a phone number after a certain time each day to see if I needed to report the next morning. Of the four days I served, I would have forgotten to call on two of them had my wife not reminded me. Given many people’s reliance on mobile technology, I believe this service would increase juror turnout.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.

Sixteen Year Old + A Million Dollars = ???

To follow up on my earlier post about beneficiary designations, it is also extremely important to consider minor beneficiaries.  Do you really want your teenager to have unfettered access to your million dollar life insurance policy?  How about your pension?  IRA?

Making sure that your minor beneficiaries are taken care of financially after you pass away is not as simple as it might seem.  One step is to make certain there is something in your Will to protect your assets from your minor beneficiary until you believe they can handle it.  This can be done in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: testamentary trusts or Uniform Transfer to Minors Act accounts.

Step two follows along with my earlier post on beneficiary designations.  As with adults, your Will does not control what happens to certain assets (i.e. life insurance, annuities, etc.) upon your death, unless the beneficiary is your Estate.  In order to make sure your assets pass to your minor beneficiaries in the best way possible, your attorney should review each individual policy or account to see how beneficiary designations are allowed.  Some accounts will allow a testamentary trust to be named as beneficiary, some require other language or methods to make sure the assets are protected.

Of course there are many methods by which your goals can be accomplished other than what has been mentioned in this post.  The best advice is to speak with your estate planning attorney.  If you have young children, or other minor beneficiaries that could inherit something from you, this is an area that needs to be addressed.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.

Wisconsin’s New Medicaid Law: A Word of Caution

The latest state budget, signed into law in June, included a number of important changes to Wisconsin’s Medicaid Program.  Rather than totally reinventing the wheel, I want to provide a link to the excellent series of blog posts written by an attorney in southern Wisconsin, which explains various parts of the new law.

This a very complex topic, so most people who don’t have hands on experience with Medicaid are probably going to have a difficult time understanding why the law change is so important. I would like to leave you with this piece of advice: If you or your spouse, or your parents are on Medicaid, are in need of Medicaid now, or might need it in the future, it is vital that you contact an attorney who understands this area of law. There are new procedures in place that affect one’s ability to sell a home, which were not in place previously. In addition, the new Wisconsin laws seem to require that if a Medicaid applicant wants to transfer the family farm or other business to a family member, it must be done with a cash sale at fair market value, in order to pass muster. Doing things incorrectly can have even more wide-ranging and long lasting effects than before, so contacting an attorney who can deal with these issues has never been more important.  It is possible that much of this new law will be struck down if challenged in court, which will only further confuse planning in the future.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.

 

Ooooooh! Aaaaaaaah!: A Timely Article About Fireworks

I came across a nice, timely article about fireworks law in Wisconsin. Please read this closely if you aren’t sure what you can or can’t do what you can do. There a lot of misconceptions about what is legal and what is not. (As there about most laws). I doubt there a lot of law enforcement out looking to arrest you for fireworks this week (and for the past weeks in my neighborhood apparently), however, I’m not advocating breaking any laws, or doing anything dangerous. Have fun, and be safe!

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.

What If I Don’t Have a Will?

A common question we get at our office is “What happens to my belongings if I don’t have a will?”  A large number of people don’t have wills either because they don’t believe they need one, don’t think they can afford to have one drafted, or are apathetic.

In Wisconsin, if you die without a proper will, you have died “Intestate”.  The rules of intestate succession are provided in Wisconsin Statute Sec. 852.01.  The most basic family situations have property flowing to the following classes of people, if they are alive at your death: 1) spouse/domestic partner, 2) issue, which is loosely defined as: children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., 3) parents, 4) siblings, and deceased siblings’ children (nieces and nephews), 5) grandparents (1/2 to maternal, 1/2 to paternal, or their surviving issue), 6) The State of Wisconsin school fund.

A few things are obvious from the above list: First, it is pretty unlikely that your property will escheat to the state (please note that escheat is not the same thing as owing the state money at your death.  The above progression is after all bills are paid).  Second, things get pretty complicated pretty quickly if there are few close relatives alive.  Sometimes finding these people is a tremendous challenge.

Another thing to realize is there are further complications in the statute when there are multiple marriages and multiple sets of children involved and someone dies intestate.  In this situation, the decedent’s spouse will only receive HALF of the decedent’s property (less some exceptions), while the other half would go to any issue that is not from the spouse.  This seems to be the most common situation where property passes unexpectedly, usually much to the chagrin of both the spouse and the children of both the surviving spouse and the other mother(s).  Many thousands of dollars are spent on attorney fees arguing about who gets what, when the situation could have been avoided with a relatively inexpensive will.

Keep in mind that these rules only apply to probate assets.  The probate/non-probate asset explanation is the subject of another post, but simply put, if you a direct beneficiary on something (life insurance, pension, annuity, 401(k)), these rules will usually not apply.

The bottom line is that it is better to be safe than sorry, especially given the variety of family situations in today’s world.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.

Beneficiary Designations and Estate Planning

When we meet with clients to discuss their estate planning, we always ask about beneficiary designations on such things as life insurance and retirement accounts.  What most people don’t realize is that depending on how your assets are held, having these beneficiary designations set up correctly can be as important as having a will or other planning device.

Beneficiary designations allow assets to pass outside of the will, and outside of the reach of probate.  Whether this is good or bad depends on your individual circumstances.  What most people don’t realize is that unless the policy or account names your Estate as beneficiary at your death, what your will says is meaningless as to who receives the value of these policies or accounts.

Incorrect beneficiary designations can cause all sorts of problems after death.  Young children can inherit large sums of money.  Disabled individuals can inherit, and lose their disability benefits.  Beneficiary designations may name individuals that you no longer wish to inherit your estate.  Plans themselves may create odd situations if the named beneficiary is deceased.  These are just a few of many problems that could arise.

Beneficiary designations are very important to discuss when putting together your estate plan with your attorney.  Bring a list of your life insurance policies, IRAs, annuities, 401(k), Pension, etc. along with you to your appointment.  If you have copies of the actual policies, bring those as well.  It is too important to ignore the possible ramifications of these designations.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Pursuant to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, nothing contained in this communication was intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  No one, without our express prior written permission, may use or refer to any tax advice in this communication in promoting, marketing, or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any other party.