Facebook After Death in Wisconsin

Many states have laws that would treat a decedent’s Facebook page (or similar online account) as a digital asset to be controlled by the personal representative of a person’s estate.

In considering those laws, I became curious as to how this issue would be handled right now in Wisconsin.

Although I don’t believe Wisconsin has dealt with this issue specifically, it seems to me that the probate statutes already give the personal representative the power to manage a decedent’s online accounts.  Online accounts are not distinguishable from other “property” as defined by statute, and the personal representative is tasked with collecting, managing and distributing all of the decedent’s estate.  Similarly, even if probate was unnecessary due to the size of the decedent’s estate, a special administrator could be given the same authority.  I think the difficulty will be in dealing with the company that hosts the account.  It also raises the question of whether a digital account of a Wisconsin resident is even Wisconsin property in which the courts would have jurisdiction to deal with.  I imagine the terms of service on these accounts (i.e. that million word thing that nobody reads that you are presented with when you sign up) would give some guidance.

Even though an online account such as a Facebook page probably doesn’t have actual monetary value (except perhaps in the case of a business page) the contents of the account could certainly have emotional value to the decedent’s family similar to a photo album or a diary.  It will be interesting to see how this law shifts in the future, and whether Wisconsin will pass similar laws specifically targeted at online assets.

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.

Unemployment “Waiting Week” in Wisconsin

I have been questioned on more than one occasion by clients concerning what has been termed “The Waiting Week” for unemployment benefits.  “Waiting Week” is a new law that took effect on January 1, 2012, and was included in 2011 Wisconsin Act 32.  In short, the law requires that someone applying for unemployment benefits for the first time in a calendar year must wait one week before receiving payment.  The claimant will not receive a payment for the first week.  The claimant loses that week of pay each year unless they reach the maximum benefit amount, which is unchanged.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has a helpful frequently asked questions page on this topic.  It is important to note that you still need to apply immediately in order to collect benefits after your waiting week is up.

 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.

Burglars Beware! : “The Castle Doctrine” in Wisconsin

I’m going to step out of the realm of taxes and pass along an interesting new law in Wisconsin.  On December 7, 2011, Gov. Scott Walker signed  2011 Assembly Bill 69, or as it is commonly known, “The Castle Doctrine”. 

This bill changes the rules relating to the use of force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm when defending against home intrusions.  The old rule was that in any situation, in order for the use of force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily to qualify as “self-defense”, the person using the force had to believe that the force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to themselves or another person.  It is important to note that this type of force could only be used to defend people, and that deadly force could not be used otherwise. 

The new law creates a presumption that use of force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm (a person acted in self-defense) if: 1)  The person against whom the force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering the actor’s residence, the actor was present in the residence, and the actor knew or reasonably believed that an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring; and 2) The person against whom the force was used was in the actor’s residence after unlawfully and forcibly entering it, the actor was present in the residence, and the actor knew or reasonably believed that the person had unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence. 

To put this into layman’s terms (which is the purpose of this blog), a man is entitled to “defend his castle”.  If someone breaks into your home while you are there, you can use any means necessary to stop it.  There are exceptions to this rule if you are also committing a crime while the break in takes place or using the house to further criminal activity, and if the person entering the home is a police officer.

Is the “Castle Doctrine” a good thing?  It will take awhile for the full ramifications to be realized, but there are certainly arguments on both sides of the issue.

 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.

2011 Tax Tip: Do Not Wait For Your 1099-G (But Do Not Ignore It)

In the past the State of Wisconsin has mailed  the 1099-G form to taxpayers  reporting the amount of WIsconsin  tax refund they received. This year, in order to save time and money, the Wisconsin will not mail you a 1099-G if you filed your 2010 tax return electronically

This does not mean you don’t need to report your state refund on your federal return.  It simply means you have to go online to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website to print the form yourself.  You will need your social security number and zip code. Whether you will need to report your refund on your 2011 federal tax return is a question for your tax preparer.  Do not wait for your 1099-G to arrive by mail before filing your taxes, and do not ignore it.

  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.