I recently read a very staggering statistic: In 2010, more than 5 million people had Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050 that number is said to increase to 19 million.  (45 U. Miami Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, ¶ 1600.1 (2011)).  Coming from a family that has already been devastated by the disease, it is difficult and frustrating for me to imagine what people will endure with that looming statistic. 

Although it is clear that Alzheimer’s and Dementia pose significant challenges for families, relationships, and society as a whole – these diseases also pose a unique threat in the estate planning realm.  First and foremost, most people do not wish to think about estate planning until they absolutely have to.  Another staggering statistic: According to LexisNexis approximately 55% of adult Americans DO NOT have a will or other estate plan.  When I ask my clients why they have not already put an estate plan in place I typically get one of three answers: 1. We just haven’t had time.  2.  I didn’t think we had enough “stuff” or money to worry about it.  Or 3. I’m not planning to die any time soon.  Typically people in that last category will not come to see me until something has happened: A death in the family; a diagnosis; or worse – when the time has come to put a family member into a nursing home.

Posted by:  3:43 PM CST

In today’s world the “traditional family” of two parents and their children is becoming a lot less common.  The term “blended family” has been coined to describe multiple families that are brought together and integrated into each other.  A blended family can mean that the wife, husband, or both parents bring children from a previous relationship.  It may also mean that while there are children from a previous relationship, some of the children are children of that union. 

Monday 9 May 2016
Posted by:  2:19 PM CST

A relative of mine recently approached me regarding the sale of her house.  She was thinking of downsizing and an opportunity just fell into her lap.  She had been talking to a neighbor who indicated that he was looking for a nice house in the neighborhood for his adult son.  When my relative told her neighbor that she would be interested in selling her house, he got very excited and asked her right away if he could make an offer before she put the house on the market. 

What my relative had was a perfect For Sale By Owner (“FSBO”) situation.  But, what now?  Buying or selling real estate can be confusing as it is, but with a FSBO it can be even worse because neither party is an expert on real estate transactions.  Some items to consider:

Tuesday 16 February 2016
Posted by:  8:54 AM CST

Wisconsin is a marital property state – what does this mean?

The law recognizes that both spouses contribute to supporting a marriage – even if only one earns a salary, or if one spouse makes more than the other. The law says that, with limited exceptions, whatever the couple acquires during their marriage should belong to them equally, as marital property.

Posted by:  3:30 PM CST

The Ins and Outs of a Revocable Living Trust

Most of the time when people say they have their assets in trust they are referring to a Revocable Living Trust (whether they know it or not).  While other types of trusts are becoming more popular – a revocable living trust is still the most common.  This article is going to go through some of the goals that a revocable living trust can accomplish as well as some of the common mistakes that people with these types of trusts find themselves making. 

Monday 28 December 2015
Posted by:  3:55 PM CST

What is Small Claims Court?

Small claims court is a special court where disputes are resolved more quickly and inexpensively than large claims proceedings.  The rules for small claims court can also be simpler and less formal.  The person who initiates the lawsuit is called the plaintiff and the person who is being sued is called the defendant.

Posted by:  9:05 AM CST

The Importance of Contingent Beneficiaries

A contingent beneficiary is a person listed as receiving your assets in the event your primary beneficiary cannot.  It is important to have contingent beneficiaries listed in case at the time of your death the primary beneficiary did not survive you. 

Monday 23 November 2015
Posted by:  10:02 AM CST

Selling Estate Owned Real Estate

Sometimes during the probate process real estate needs to be sold.  This could either be the decedent’s home, a rental home, a vacation home, or maybe even hunting land. 


Posted by:  9:00 AM CST

“I Would Like to Put my Son’s Name on my House.”

More than a few of my prospective clients start estate planning meetings with the question: “Can you help me put my children’s names on my house?”  My response is always the same: “Of course, I can; however, are you sure that is really what you want?”  My next question is usually for them to tell me what their goal is in getting the house out of their individual names.  For most people it is a fear that “the nursing home will take it” to pay for their care and that is where I come in to explain why most instances that is not the best idea. 

Friday 30 October 2015
Posted by:  8:19 AM CST

Joint Tenants – This is when real estate is owned by more than one person, equally, allowing the surviving owner to automatically own the property solely when the other one dies.

Tenants in Common – This is when real estate is owned by more than one person, however, each person owns a specific percentage of the property.  Upon the death of one of the owners, the property will pass to that person’s beneficiaries, typically through a probate process.

Survivorship Marital Property – Simply stated, real estate owned by a married couple.  When one of the spouses dies, it automatically transfers full ownership to the surviving spouse.  

Individually – This is when real estate is owned by one person.  Upon the death of this owner, the property will pass to the owner’s beneficiaries, typically through a probate process.

Transfer on Death – This is when the owner of real estate executes a Transfer of Death Deed allowing the real estate to pass to an individual or group of people upon the death of the owner.  The property passes without going through probate.

Life Estate – A transfer of real estate while the owners are still living to people they have named.  The owner retains the right to live in the premises, but agrees to pay the taxes, maintenances and upkeep on the property.

It is important to keep in mind that with any of these ownerships require proper paperwork to remove a deceased owner.