20 Reasons to Hire a Wisconsin Real Estate Lawyer

Real estate matters are a big deal with long-term implications, both financial and legal. The only party that can give legal advice in these significant matters are real estate lawyers. Because a real estate lawyer does not work on commission, real estate lawyers dispense unbiased advice because they have no interests in the matter.

With so many documents and steps in the real estate transaction, real estate lawyers can also be invaluable when navigating through a real estate matter. Real estate lawyers can break down documents and the process for clients, allowing them to make an informed decision. The lawyers can identify issues throughout the process and assist in resolving matters. Real estate lawyers can also advice clients of legal risks involved in the transaction, both short- and long-term. If the transaction results in legal conflict, a real estate lawyer can assist in the resolution.

With so many advantages of hiring a real estate lawyer, potential homeowners, business owners, farm managers, developers, landlords, and other parties can benefit from the services of a real estate lawyer. In Wisconsin, a real estate lawyer can assist with these matters. (This list is not all-inclusive. Contact a local real estate lawyer for a consultation pertaining to the specific matter.)

Real Estate Lawyer Services

  1. Purchasing rental properties
  2. Selling a home to a child or family member
  3. Buying a home from a parent
  4. Purchasing a home
  5. Title examinations
  6. Zoning issues
  7. Resolving Homeowner Association issues
  8. Construction contract review and issues
  9. Drafting land contracts
  10. Resolving conflicts with property titles
  11. Drafting development agreements
  12. Filing liens
  13. Resolution of boundary line disputes
  14. Purchasing land
  15. Drafting land rental agreements
  16. Reviewing offers to purchase a property
  17. Selling land
  18. Renting land to another party
  19. Drafting and negotiating brokerage agreements
  20. Dealing with restrictive covenants

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

Guide to Creating an Estate Plan in Wisconsin

family walking on beach after estate planning in wisconsinMost Wisconsin residents associate estate planning with drafting a will—and nothing more. In reality, there is more to the process, such as drafting directives that guide family and friends during difficult times. As a whole, an estate plan is a package of legal documents that lead to an optimal financial outcome and expedient process for all parties involved and detail the wishes of the incapacitated or deceased.

Because everyone’s situation varies, the exact estate planning documents and arrangements needed are different for every household (and sometimes for individual household members). The details of an estate plan can also vary from state to state. In general, however, the initial steps for creating an estate plan are similar, including where to start the estate planning process.

Gather information about assets and liabilities.

Estate planning is not entirely about financial matters; however, finances are an integral part of every estate plan. To give professionals a comprehensive view of the financial situation, compile a list of assets and liabilities. This information should include financial accounts, life insurance policies, any financial debts, and other liabilities that needs to be factored into the estate. This information can also be used to calculate the net worth of the estate; this step needs to be done to determine if and what taxes the estate is subject to.

Have important discussions.

Beyond the owner of the estate, there are other parties that are named in estate planning documents. These parties need to be chosen, including:

  • Beneficiary or beneficiaries. These parties receive assets from the estate. Beneficiaries, commonly called heirs, can be individuals (i.e. family members, friends, associates) or organizations (i.e. charities).
  • Executor. This party should be a responsible individual that ensures all the terms of the estate planning documents are executed. An executor can be a friend, family member, or associate, such as a lawyer or other firm.
  • Guardian. This party is named as the caregiver for minors when the owner of the estate is incapacitated or deceased. (Read more about choosing and naming a guardian for children.)

A discussion with these parties is not required for estate planning; however, discussions can be invaluable with all parties involved (including friends or family members that are not named in the estate plan) so the execution of the estate plan is seamless and efficient. When executors, beneficiaries, and guardians are named, information about the parties should be collected (contact an estate planning lawyer to find out what information is needed). If the choice of beneficiaries, executors, or guardian changes, these parties can (and should) be changed and updated.

Contact an experienced local estate planning lawyer.

There are several different estate planning options, such as a will, advanced directives, irrevocable and revocable living trust. An experienced, local estate planning lawyer can recommend the best documentation and arrangements suited to the specific situation. Bring all information to the meeting, including the list of assets and liabilities and information about parties that should be included.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

 

Living Trust versus Will: What’s the difference?

Estate planning worksheet for writing a willIn the past few years we’ve had more clients in our Wisconsin offices asking about revocable living trusts and whether or not a living trust is right for their estate planning. While we can’t answer the latter question here (make an appointment to find out if a living trust is right for your situation), we can give you a basic overview of revocable living trusts and wills.

Will

The will is the most common estate planning document. A will is a legal document (find tips for drafting a legal will here) that details your wishes, such as guardianship of minor children, distribution of assets, and who the executor is that carries out your wishes. Other than drafting a will and other important estate planning documents, no other actions may be necessary during the estate owner’s lifetime.

Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is a legal document that outlines your assets and distribution. The living trust is revocable at any time. In a living trust, all assets are placed in a living trust and a trustee is appointed to manage the assets. Typically, the trustee is the estate owner during their lifetime and is transferred to another party or parties when necessary.

Similarities

A revocable living trust shares similarities to a will. Both legal documents dictate the distribution of your assets and should be established during estate planning prior to one’s death. Also, estate taxes are the same for estates with a will and living trust.

Differences

There are some key differences between these estate planning documents, however. A revocable living trust is not a public document, making all matters private. When an estate is in a living trust, the estate does not have to go through probate. All wills have to go through probate, which can take longer (in some cases months or years) and incur more expenses to the estate. Overall, it is easier to create and make changes to a will than it is to a living trust. A living trust has more initial costs during set-up than a traditional will.

What is right for you

Your lawyer can discuss whether a will or revocable living trust, or a combination of both (a “pour over will”), is right for your situation. Make an appointment to get the process started and determine which legal option is right for your estate and your family.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

What is an advance directive? What advance directives should I have?

Estate planning worksheet for writing a willThe term “estate planning” conjures up images of wills and inheritances. Often some of the most important estate planning documents, advance directives, is overlooked—and all too often that oversight can have negative consequences when you need them the most.

What is an advance directive?

When an incident happens that incapacitates you—an accident, illness, mental affliction, etc.—-your family is not automatically authorized to make legal decisions in Wisconsin.  Advance directives are forms that give legal authorization and instructions on your financial and health care decisions.

Why should I include advance directives as part of my estate planning?

Wisconsin is not a “next of kin” or “family consent” state.  If an emergency happens and you cannot express your wishes for your assets or care, advance directives do that legally for you.  For that reason, advance directives are a very important component of any estate plan; they are also helpful to a person’s family because guardianship proceedings can be more lengthy, costly, stressful and public then advance directives.  Because of these documents are legally binding, it makes sense to consult an attorney as part of your efforts to complete a legally-binding estate plan.

What advance directives do I need?

Power of Attorney for Finance and Property

This document is one of four directives authorized by statute in Wisconsin. The Power of Attorney for Finance and Property designates another person to make legal and financial decisions when you can’t.  As your document with your expressed wishes, you can limit those powers or grant a broad breadth to the “agent” (that person) you choose.  Some examples of matters your agent can deal with on your behalf include finances, insurance policies, government benefits, taxes, bank and retirement accounts.

Power of Attorney for Health Care & Declaration to Physicians

These directives both deal with health care decisions when you can’t; the Declaration to Physicians is much more limited in scope.  The Declaration to Physicians document states any preferences you may have regarding treatment or any life-saving measures you would like taken (or not taken) in the event of a medical emergency.  Examples of situations where a Declaration to Physician document would be used is if you are in a permanent vegetative state, unconscious, or in a coma.  In your Power of Attorney for Health Care, you designate an agent (this can be a different party than the agent in your Power of Attorney for Finance and Property) to make decisions about your health care when you are incapacitated.

Authorization for Final Disposition

This document designates a person to make funeral arrangements when you die.  This advance directive is also the appropriate document where you can explain your preferences for your disposition and funeral service.  Put simply, this is your chance to detail what you want (and don’t want) after you pass on, and who you trust to carry out those wishes.

Advance directives are relatively inexpensive to create, especially when compared to the alternative proceedings that need to take place if those documents are not on record. Contact a local experienced attorney to get your estate planning started and finished just in case you ever need it.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

10 Tips for Writing a Will

Estate planning worksheet for writing a willEveryone has a story about a family they know divided because a parent or family member did not have an estate plan in place.  If you want to prevent that story from being about your family, it’s imperative to initiate your estate planning, including a will.  Getting the process of preparing and drafting a legal document accomplished is not a difficult process, but it’s helpful to understand the basics of preparing a will that prevents that story of family drama from happening to your family.

Don’t procrastinate.

There are a lot of emotions that accompany the process of drafting a will.  Don’t let your feelings get in the way of writing your will.  Start inventorying assets, collecting documents, creating lists, and having important discussions about beneficiaries, executors, and what assets you want passed on.

Know the terms used in drafting your will.

Because a will is a legal document, there are a lot of terms to understand when preparing your will.  Here are a few basic terms used in almost every will:

Beneficiary-heir(s) (family members, friends, associates, organizations) that receive assets specified in your will

Executor-party that ensures that all the terms of your will are carried out

Guardian-person(s) that is going to care for your kids

Make sure it’s legal.

A worthless will can cause more problems for your heirs, including financial costs.  For that reason, choose the author of your will carefully. Selecting an experienced lawyer not only ensures that your assets are distributed in the manner you want, but also has the expertise to recommend any other legal documents that need to be in place for estate planning and any related situations that could arise.

Don’t make any assumptions.

Leave nothing to chance when drafting your will.  Be specific as possible; carefully detail every wish, every item that you want passed on, every beneficiary (and a back-up if your beneficiary is unable to receive the item), and any other preferences about your estate.  For example, if you want your nephew to have your prized model trains, carefully list every item from your collection in your will.

Keep it updated.

A will is not a static document to be tucked away and collect dust.  Update your will when you add more members to your family, marriage circumstances change, death of a beneficiary, significant changes in assets, etc.

Keep it safe.

If you put your will in a safe deposit box, no matter how legally sound, you can make the process more costly and complicated for your family.  Your family may have to get a court order to gain access to the safe deposit box.  Instead, choose a fireproof, protected container for your document.   You’ve gone through all the work to draft a sound will to make it easier for your family; finding a safe location ensures that your will is accessible when the time comes—and can do everything you specified.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.