7 Signs of Elder Abuse You Should Not Ignore

Is your loved one showing signs of elder abuse?

More than 8 million elderly Americans receive a form of long-term care every year. This care takes place in homes, residential care facilities, hospice, and nursing homes. Many American families trust these facilities and agencies to provide their loved ones with a good quality of life.

Yet, 1 out of 10 Americans over the age of 60 experience elder abuse. This totals 800,000 people on an annual basis. How do you know if your family member is one of them?

Below, we go into the top 7 signs and symptoms of elder abuse. Keep reading to learn more!

1. Recurring Injuries

Have you visited your loved one and noticed they have recurring, unexplained injuries?

An increased frequency of physical injuries might indicate elder abuse. Some injuries for which to watch out include:

  • Cuts, bruises, and abrasions
  • Broken bones
  • Sprains
  • Dislocations
  • Welts
  • Binding marks on wrists
  • Drug overdoses

If any of these occur without explanation, you should investigate further. Hire an attorney and file a personal injury lawsuit. Press criminal charges if you believe they apply to your loved one’s situation.

2. Poor Personal Hygiene

Has your loved one’s personal hygiene or space cleanliness deteriorated since you placed them in someone’s care?

If so, this might indicate signs of elder abuse. In particular, elders undergoing mistreatment might have unkempt or unwashed hair. They might not have had their teeth brushed. Abused elders also often wear seasonally inappropriate clothing, like short sleeves in the winter. 

Their home might get left uncleaned or in disrepair. If you visit their personal space and notice it looks in poor condition, address the matter with the agency in charge of their care. You can also consider moving them to a different agency or facility.

3. Uneasy Relationship with Caregiver

Your loved one should get along with their caregiver. Some disagreements may arise on occasion, but they should serve as the exception, not the norm. Their caregiver should maintain a professional relationship with your loved one and your family.

Regular tension between your loved one and their caregiver indicates elder abuse might be taking place. Additional signs include the elder withdrawing from social activities, either on their own or because their caregiver won’t let them go. An abusive caregiver may also not allow people to drop by without notice or display aggression toward your loved one. 

4. Medical Neglect

Caregivers have the responsibility to look after the medical needs of elderly people. Failing to care for the medical needs of a person in their care comprises elder abuse. 

Abusive caregivers might not administer medication to your loved one. They might neglect to equip them with daily medical aids, such as glasses or hearing aids. They may also not give them proper food or nutrition.

Other abusive caregivers leave their clients when they are in vulnerable states. This includes abandoning people who suffer from dementia. 

If you witness medical neglect, you should take your loved one out of the situation as soon as possible. Get them medical attention if needed and pursue legal cases against the caregiver or agency.

5. Behavioral Changes

Have you noticed your loved one’s behavior changing?

Often, a person’s behavior changes as they age. Yet, this alteration often happens at a gradual rate. A sudden change in your loved one’s behavior might constitute a cause for concern.

In particular, you should pay attention if they display signs of anxiety, fear, or depression. An abused elder may also startle more than the average person, avoid eye contact, or act apathetic. They may experience mood swings or start rocking back and forth as a form of self-soothing. Others experience nightmares or psychosomatic issues. Some speak of their abuse, but others may not.

6. Emotional and Sexual Abuse

Does the caregiver belittle or say harmful things to your loved one? Do they behave well in front of some people but exhibit a mean-spirited attitude toward the recipients of their care?

This might constitute a sign of emotional abuse. Some signs of emotional abuse include withdrawing from social activities, unexpected depressive episodes, and rocking. Sometimes, adults also complain of their caregivers being unkind to them. 

Sexual abuse, though rare, sometimes occurs. According to the law, sexual abuse constitutes any sexual activity to which one party does not or cannot consent. Bruising around genitals or breasts may indicate sexual abuse as may torn undergarments or unexplained bleeding.

7. Financial Abuse

Sometimes, elders have difficulty looking after their own finances. When this happens, another person needs to manage their financial affairs.

This leaves the elder vulnerable to elder financial abuse or exploitation. This occurs when someone misuses their power over the money for their own financial gain. As a loved one, you should ensure your loved one remains financially secure throughout their elderly years.

Some signs of elder financial abuse include unpaid bills, large or unexplained withdrawals from their account, new authorized users on their bank account, and eviction notices. It might also include sudden changes to wills or powers of attorney or entering financial agreements your loved one doesn’t understand.

You can file a personal injury lawsuit against people who commit elder financial abuse. Such lawsuits help your relative regain their lost money and financial standing. 

What to Do When You See Signs of Elder Abuse

So, what should you do when you see signs of elder abuse?

First, you should address any urgent medical needs. Then, you should pursue legal action against the caregiver or the responsible agency. If you want to pursue a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of your loved one, let our team help.

Our lawyers have nearly 150 years of experience combined. Contact us today to learn how we can help you!

7 Questions To Ask a Probate Lawyer

There are currently over 169,941 estate lawyers, including probate lawyers, in the US. Do you know who to choose?

Losing a loved one is difficult enough. It’s important to find a probate lawyer you can trust. Their expertise and experience can ensure the process is handled properly.

The right lawyer can provide you with peace of mind during this difficult time. 

Read on to learn more about what to look for in the right lawyer. By asking these seven questions, you can find the right legal representation you need.

1. How Much Experience Do You Have?

Before hiring a probate lawyer, it’s important to ensure they have the experience and expertise you need. Look for a lawyer who specializes in probate law.

How long have they practiced law? How long have they specialized?

Choosing a lawyer with years of experience will give you peace of mind. You’ll feel reassured that they have the know-how you need.

What does a probate lawyer do, exactly?

Probate lawyers work with executors and estate beneficiaries to settle a decedent’s affairs. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Preparing documents required by a probate court
  • Resolving issues regarding income tax
  • Handling challenges regarding the validity of the will
  • Collecting proceeds from a life insurance policy
  • Assisting in paying debts and bills
  • Obtaining appraisals for the decedent’s real property

Probate lawyers help transfer assets from a descendant to the appropriate beneficiaries. They also make final disbursements of assets based on the defendant’s will or living trust.

Almost 25% fewer adults have wills in 2020 compared to 2017. Make sure your loved ones contact a lawyer to draft a will. A will could help resolve any future issues regarding the transfer of assets and property.

Otherwise, you might need to handle these situations through legal proceedings.

Talk to the probate lawyer about their responsibilities. Ensure they’re capable of handling the probate process. If they struggle to explain their own services, they likely lack the experience you need. 

2. Who Will I Work With?

If you visit a law firm for a consultation appointment, make sure to speak with the lawyer who will handle your case. Try to learn as much as you can about their work background. Remember, you want to choose a lawyer who has the experience you need.

Take the time to visit your local bar association website. Make sure the lawyer is licensed to practice in the area.

You can also check online to make sure they don’t have any complaints filed against them. The Martindale-Hubbell website can give you more information about each law firm and lawyer as well.

3. Have You Handled Cases Similar to Mine?

Professionals learn from prior experience. Ask each lawyer if they have experience handling a situation that’s similar to yours. If they lack the experience you need, keep looking.

Every case is a little different. If the probate lawyer doesn’t sound confident about their abilities to help you, keep looking. Choosing someone who has handled a similar situation in the past will give you peace of mind.

You’ll feel more confident about their abilities to help you.

4. How Long Will My Case Take?

It’s important to set realistic expectations regarding your case. When determining what to ask a probate lawyer, review the details of your case first.

Do they have any concerns about your case? Will anything cause a potential delay? Do they know how to work around those delays?

The probate process can take a little time to complete. Many clients worry the process takes years, though it rarely does. Instead, ask your lawyer for a time frame.

As you speak to different lawyers, pay attention to each one’s answer. If one lawyer’s time frame seems too long, scratch that lawyer off your list. They might have too much on their plate to help you.

Determining an accurate time frame will help you plan and budget accordingly.

5. What Potential Issues Should I Prepare For?

You can also set realistic expectations by learning what to expect throughout the process. 

Ask the probate lawyer what problems they usually come across. How can you avoid those issues?

An experienced lawyer will know what potential problems to look out for. They should also know how to take the necessary steps to avoid the same issues.

For example, what paperwork do they need you to gather? Before your consultation appointment, ask the lawyer what you should bring. Gathering the right documents can help you save valuable time.

6. How Can I Reach You?

How will you reach the lawyer or a member of their staff for developments and updates regarding your case? Should you call them or send an email? Will you need to speak with a paralegal who understands the details of your case?

Ask the lawyer how long their usual response time is. If they don’t have a plan to contact you, reconsider choosing that lawyer.

Otherwise, you might come across communication issues down the road. 

7. What Charges Should I Expect?

In many cases, legal fees can feel confusing. Speak with the lawyer about their fee structure. Do they charge based on a contingency fee, hourly fee, or flat fee?

If they charge hourly, what’s their rate? How long have cases similar to yours taken in the past?

Ask about any unexpected or additional costs you’ll need to worry about, too. 

Before signing a contract, make sure to read every detail. Ask any questions you have before signing the document. 

Preparing for Probate: 7 Questions to Ask a Probate Lawyer

Losing a loved one is daunting enough. With an experienced probate lawyer, you won’t have to work through the process alone. Now that you know what to ask a probate lawyer, you can find one you can trust. 

Searching for more helpful legal advice? We’re here to help.

Contact us today to schedule your consultation appointment. 

Getting the Best Results: Should You Hire a Small Claims Lawyer?

Do you know what happens after you file a lawsuit in small claims court?

If you answered “yes,” do you know how to avoid mistakes in every step that follows?

If you answered “no,” how couldn’t you benefit from consulting with a small claims lawyer?

To get the best results for your case, you need a guide that does more than answer your questions. You want an article that shows you how to find the best small claims court lawyer in Wisconsin.

Learn the essentials by reading the sections below and take notes for your free consultation with an attorney.

What Types of Cases Go to Small Claims Court?

Most small claims cases involve simple monetary disputes where one party acted in the wrong.

The most common examples include:

  • Unlawful evictions
  • Disputes over pets
  • Disputes over gym contracts
  • Minor disputes with a neighbor
  • Not receiving payment for a sale
  • Collecting payment from a debtor
  • Refusal to return a security deposit
  • Overcharging or faulty work for car repair

Anyone can bring a small claims case in front of a local judge if the issue involves a lower amount of money. This type of lawsuit offers the advantage of resolving monetary disputes at a low cost.

You don’t have a complicated court process, either. Anyone without formal legal education can understand how the process works. If you have a straightforward case, you may have a chance at winning without legal help.

It’s important to note that what appears straightforward to you may have unforeseen legal complications. Any assumption that you make without legal advice may mean that you lose your case before it starts.

Can You Sue in Small Claims Court?

You can go to court if you are over 18 years old or a legally emancipated minor. You don’t have any legal obligation to hire a lawyer for small claims court.

It’s critical to know the limitations of these lawsuits. Wisconsin limits small claims to $10,000 or less.

Does your case involve government agencies? Examples of this include discrimination from an employer based on sex, race, gender, or sexual preference. You must show that you filed complaints to government entities before going to court.

When Do You File and How Much Does it Cost?

If you wait too long to file, you may not have an option to deal with the problem. Do your homework and find out what the law states.

In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations goes from two to six years, depending on the case.

You should expect the following fees that will vary depending on the circumstances:

  • Court fees
  • A filing fee
  • Court clerk costs
  • A service fee

How Can a Lawyer Help in Small Claims Court?

Do you need a lawyer for small claims?

You don’t have a legal obligation to hire a lawyer for small claims court. It’s worth considering for any dollar amount, however. An attorney’s expertise may mean the difference between winning or losing your case.

Avoid a Disadvantage in Representation

Are you filing a claim against a governmental entity or corporation? Wisconsin law says that companies must have an attorney present for all legal proceedings.

If you go to court without an attorney, and the other side has representation, you’re at a disadvantage.

Do you have confidence that there’s no viable counter-claim? If you become a counter-defendant, you can face judgments against yourself that could cost thousands of dollars.

Case Assessment

A consultation may prevent you from wasting your time and money. Even if you don’t believe that you need a lawyer for small claims court, you should at least know the advantages.

Have you taken the time to discuss your claim with a neutral party? It’s difficult to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case without a professional’s insight. If you do nothing else with a consultation, you’ll have a sense of how to strengthen your case before your hearing.

Expert Preparation

Do you know the proper procedure for having evidence admitted in court? Do you what may or may not be admissible?

If you answered “yes” to those questions, you have a law degree.

Hiring an attorney means you have an expert in what documents to present and what may constitute hearsay. You don’t want your case to suffer because you missed a rule about admitting evidence in a Wisconsin courtroom.

Is a Small Claims Lawyer Worth the Expense?

The dollars and cents don’t seem to add up. How can small claims lawyer fees make sense?

Lawyers offer a variety of fees to help clients with small claims. You may find a lawyer who’s open to:

  • A fixed fee
  • Working on contingency
  • An hourly fee for limited help

Ask for a consultation and present your case to a lawyer. If you don’t have confidence that hiring a small claims attorney works for your case, at least you took the time to explore the option.

Before you decide to move forward without representation, take the time to investigate the reality for yourself.

Do You Need a Small Claims Attorney?

You have more information than when you started, but where do you go from here?

Can you decide if you need a small claims lawyer on your own?

You don’t have to leave your legal fortune up to chance. For small claims or large ones, use our website as a resource or call us at 920-261-1630.

Why You Should Hire an Estate Planning Attorney in Watertown, WI

The global pandemic has changed how we view the world in countless ways, but there’s one aspect that has changed for the better: our chances of planning for our loved ones’ futures.

Today, 62% of Americans still don’t have a will. However, experts have found that more people have created or are planning to create one.

Preparing for future uncertainty is always a good idea, but it’s just as important to go about it the right way. While it’s possible to create legal documents without the help of an estate planning attorney, doing so isn’t always in your best interests.

If you’re considering creating your own estate plan, it may be a good idea to think twice. Let’s take a look at why you should consider working with an attorney for this critical project.

Local Attorneys Know Local Estate Planning Laws

The overall picture of estate planning looks the same no matter where you live nationwide. However, the laws of each state may vary in terms of minor details and nuances.

Some states have specific requirements regarding the types of assets allowed in a will or trust. Others mandate that your personal representative must be a resident of the state at the time of your death. Some states may even require specific formalities during the signing of estate planning documents.

In addition, even these minor details may change from year to year. The federal government, state governments, local court systems, and the IRS make small changes to the law all the time. For the average layperson, it can be difficult to keep track of these nuances.

In other words, when you’re considering estate planning in Watertown, WI, it’s important to work with a team that has experience specific to the area. The right attorneys can help ensure that all documents you create remain valid both now and in years to come.

Attorneys Help Create Indisputable Estate Plans

It’s possible to find anything online these days—and that includes cheap estate planning services and free templates and e-books. Access to tools like these might tempt you to make a do-it-yourself job of your estate planning in the hopes of saving money or time.

However, as stated above, the nuances of local law can be complex. Even an error in a minor detail of your paperwork can make the entire document invalid.

In some cases, the Wisconsin courts will not recognize certain do-it-yourself documents. Even if these documents are found valid, small errors or incorrect statements can cause delays when your beneficiaries try to claim your assets.

Because a local estate planning attorney will understand the nuances of local laws, you can be confident that your documents will be indisputable. If you want peace of mind in knowing that your beneficiaries will have the financial support they need after your passing, an attorney can help.

Estate Planning Attorneys Can Save You Money in the Long Term

If you balk at the idea of paying a flat fee for an attorney’s services, you may want to consider the long-term repercussions of not doing so. If you create an estate plan that is found to be invalid, your beneficiaries may have to pay professional fees, taxes, and court costs.

In other words, the mistake of do-it-yourself estate planning can cost your beneficiaries thousands in the future—in addition to the headache and stress of fighting for assets that should rightfully belong to them.

In addition, an experienced attorney may even be able to help you save more money on the front end. Attorneys are more likely to find tax and financial benefits that work in your favor, allowing you to safeguard more of your estate for your loved ones.

Estate Planning Attorneys Offer Objective Advice

On a psychological level, many of us have a complicated relationship with money—which reveals a lot about us. Most people view money as a source of comfort, security, self-esteem and more.

This can make it hard for us to separate our emotions from our finances. When our family members and beneficiaries are concerned, it becomes even more difficult to stay objective.

An estate planning attorney can help you take a step back from the situation, offering unbiased advice to help you make crucial decisions as needed.

A Lawyer Can Update Your Estate Plan

Estate plans are not documents that fall under the “set it and forget it” mantra. Most people experience life changes that require updates to a will and testament every six months to two years. Whether it’s your circumstances that have changed or your beneficiaries’, you’ll need to make sure that your legal documents keep up.

An attorney can help you revisit your documents as needed when your financial situation changes. Sometimes, all you’ll need is a simple codicil, and other times, you may need to reevaluate the plan as a whole. Whatever the case, an attorney can be a trusted resource for both you and your loved ones as you work to understand your changing legal needs.

Attorneys Can Help You Navigate Complex Situations

Though some people can get by with a relatively simple estate plan, most of us have complicated personal and financial situations that can complicate our plans for the future. In most cases, it’s helpful to have an attorney sort out the details of situations like the following:

  • You have minor children, no children, or plan to leave your children out of your estate plan
  • You own property outside of Wisconsin
  • You own your own business
  • You plan to leave some of your assets to charity
  • You have a substantial amount of money in retirement accounts
  • You were recently divorced or lost a spouse
  • You recently lost a family member
  • One or more of your beneficiaries has special health or financial needs

Estate planning can be complicated at the best of times, but anyone in situations like these should consider hiring a local Wisconsin attorney to help.

Create Your Estate Plan the Right Way

The decision to create an estate plan will always be an admirable one—but it’s important to do it correctly the first time. Working with an estate planning attorney can ensure that your documents remain valid, and the right team can be trusted long-term resources to help you navigate your changing future.

At Watertown Law, we’re here to help! With over 200 years of combined experience serving clients throughout the state, our team can help you create an estate plan that will protect your loved ones in years to come. Contact us to learn what we can do for you.

8 Estate Planning Tips Straight From the Experts

Did you know that nearly half of Americans over 55 have not taken steps to prepare a will?

This is not an easy subject to address or broach with loved ones. However, the year 2020 has taught us how unpredictable the world can be. Even a person with ideal conditions today can suffer a reversal of fortune. 

If you have not yet taken steps to plan for your estate, what can you do to make the experience as smooth and efficient as possible? Why not check out our list of estate planning tips? Simply read on to find out more.

1. Communicate as a Family

While we often think of estate planning as a priority for seniors, 2020 has shown that everyone should make a plan. Communicating as families regarding their preferences regarding their assets will make it easier to broach the subject with older family members. 

Each family member can consider what their healthcare preferences are. Further, they should consider how their possessions should be distributed if a disaster should strike.

2. Advance Health Care Directive

Making decisions about possible future care is a crucial part of planning for the future. A health care power of attorney will legally guarantee that your wishes will be adhered to even if you are not conscious or able to state your own preference. 

There are similar forms called a Living Will or Advanced Directive. You should discuss the differences with an attorney.

3. The Will

Your last will and testament is probably the most well-known portion of your estate and future financial planning program. While a person may think that a simple note or even a verbal contract will be sufficient, this is often not the case. 

Some states provide a statutory form to prevent disputes. In other locations, the state will provide recommendations regarding the information that a will should contain. 

4. Executor of Your Will

In the event of a death, a person will need to ensure that assets are distributed according to the deceased one’s wishes. The person who carries this responsibility is the Personal Representative of the will. 

If a person creates a clear unambiguous will, the distribution will likely be quick and efficient.

5. Granting Power of Attorney

A person planning their estate should also consider who can act as a Durable Power of Attorney. This person will have the authority to make decisions regarding the person’s assets and finances. 

What is the difference between a power of attorney and the personal representative of the will? The power of attorney assumes this responsibility before the person passes away. The personal representative is only granted responsibilities in accord with the written will after the person has died.

6. Retirement Accounts

A person will have worked all their lives to build up savings and perhaps even significant retirement accounts. These accounts will likely have beneficiary designations and after-death distribution will be controlled by the financial institution holding the account.

For this reason, it is good to ensure that you get legal advice from a professional that has experience on a range of topics, including taxation.

7. Bank Accounts

While it is relatively easy to distribute physical assets after a person’s death, non-tangible assets can create more of a challenge. These include personal bank accounts. How can a person plan to share these aspects of their estate?

A person can assign a payable on death beneficiary of their bank account. This means that the account will automatically be transferred to the beneficiary upon proof of the bank account owner’s death. 

Some have tried to accomplish this by setting up a joint account with the beneficiary. This person may be someone other than their spouse. However, this can create problems as the person has access to the joint account from its creation rather than after the person’s death. 

Also, the beneficiary has equal rights to the account. This means that if you choose to change the beneficiary and they are a joint account holder, you will have to get their permission to do so. 

A payable on death arrangement with your bank is a far more preferable arrangement.

8. Do You Have Digital Assets?

Many people are not aware of their need to make arrangements for their digital assets. Do you know what digital assets are? These include anything from email and social media accounts to memberships and other obligations a person may have.

While security is a priority and widely sharing your user names and passwords is never a good idea, it would be good to create a way for a person to care for these in the future.

The Most Effective Estate Planning Tips and Much More

While we never want to think about difficult future times, 2020 has taught us that the scene of the world can change very quickly. We all have a responsibility to manage our estate so that it will benefit the people we love the most.

By applying the estate planning tips that we have discussed today, we can do this effectively and efficiently. 

If you would like to benefit om professional help when planning your estate, then we are here to help. We leverage our experience in this field and provide our readership with reliable guidance and services. Why not contact us for more information. 

What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

Have you considered what will happen to your loved ones if you die? It’s a bleak thought, but one that needs to be considered.

Death is already hard enough on family members, but if you die without a will, it can make the process even more difficult. Wills are useful because you can communicate your intentions on how you want your possessions handled after your death. 

Even if you think your estate is small or you only intend to name one beneficiary, you need to have a will. Unforeseen problems can arise if you die without leaving a will behind. Keep reading to learn what some of these problems are and how they can affect your loved ones.

What is Intestacy?

Intestacy is what occurs when a person dies before creating a will. If you die without a will, all of your assets are frozen. The court will then review everything in your estate.

Once this is complete, the court will apply the state’s intestacy laws to determine who receives your assets.

Intestacy laws differ by state, so the primary recipient of assets will vary based on where you live. If you put off making your will, this could lead to additional stress for your loved ones. This can include waiting on the courts for months while they review your assets or even arguments among family members.

Divorce and parental disputes may change your opinion of who you want to be your beneficiaries. If your estate goes into intestacy, family members you don’t care for may end up as your beneficiaries. 

You can view Wisconsin’s intestacy laws to see who would be your primary beneficiary without a will.

If You Die Without a Will While Single 

If you are single and without children, generally, your parents will inherit your estate. If your parents are deceased, your siblings will inherit your estate.

If you are single with children, then your children will typically inherit equal shares of your estate. If any of your children have died but had children, your grandchildren will inherit that share of your estate.

Married With No Will

If you are married without a will, then your estate could go to your spouse.

This can be complicated if you are divorced and remarried but have children from both marriages. Intestacy laws can make this situation more complicated, as well.

Domestic Partnerships and Unmarried Couples

Domestic partnerships are a little tricky in Wisconsin. If you and your significant other filed for a domestic partnership before April 2018, you have nothing to worry about. However, since then, Wisconsin does not allow couples to file to become domestic partners.

Generally, domestic partners have the same rights as a spouse. This includes the way jointly-owned property is allocated.

The same considerations do not apply to unmarried couples. Marriage provides legal rights to couples that come into play in these types of situations. 

The two of you may love each other very much, but the estate will defer to family first. This can cause problems for your significant other if you want them to inherit anything that you have. 

If you do not have plans to get married but want to make them a beneficiary, there are some preparations to consider.

Family Disputes

Even with a will, the way you allocate your estate may leave some family members unhappy. Dying without a will can make your death infinitely more stressful for the ones you leave behind.

In estate disputes, greed is rarely the primary reason why families end up fighting. These issues typically have their roots in the way families interacted with each other before a loved one’s death. Some examples of these situations include the children of a parent’s separate marriages or siblings with large age gaps. 

The death of a loved one is an unbearable time for a family that doesn’t have to be exacerbated because there is no will. 

If you want certain family members to inherit specific pieces of your estate, wills were designed especially to handle these matters. Taking the time to speak with a lawyer and plan your estate can save your family from undue stress once you are gone.

Family Law, Estate Planning, and More

If you found this guide on what happens if you die without a will helpful, our attorneys at Neuberger, Griggs, Sweet, & Froehle, LLP can assist you with your estate planning. We also have experience in many other areas of law, like family law, landlord/tenant law, criminal law, and many more.

If you have any legal concerns, contact us, and one of our attorneys will be able to assist you.

Will vs Trust: What’s the Difference and Which Is Right for You?

Planning for when we are no longer here, although unpleasant, is something that we all should do, no matter what age we are. Estate planning shows consideration to our loved ones, as it takes away many potential stressors and complications at what would be a highly emotional time. 

While words like a will or a trust are well known, the ins and outs of what they are and how they operate in estate planning are often unclear for many, leading them to ask questions such as: What are the differences between a will vs trust? What would be the best choice for me?

Let us help you come to a clear understanding of the two over the course of this post.

What Is a Will?

A will is a legal document that enforces how you would like your assets, large or small, to be managed when you pass away. A will can also include your wishes in regard to your funeral and guardianship of any children. 

It only comes into effect upon your passing. 

Once it comes into effect, it will need to pass through a legal process called probate where a court will manage the administration and ensure adherence to the will. This process will mean making public the terms found in the will. 

What Is a Trust?

A trust is an arrangement where the legal authority of property and other assets is given over to a “trustee“. A person can be a trustee, but you can also make it an organization such as a bank or legal firm. The beneficiaries are named in the trust document and the trustee will ensure that the outlined wishes are fulfilled.  

One difference between a will vs trust is that a trust comes into effect once finalized and not upon your death.

A trust is also a private matter, as there is no need for those with trusts to go through probate court. This greatly speeds up matters leading to a smooth and efficient transition for the beneficiary.  

Drafting a Will: Advantages and Disadvantages

While they have similar outcomes there are some clear matters to take into account when considering both a will and a trust. 

A will gives peace of mind to all about what will happen to their belongings and those under their care. However, the process of finalizing matters once it comes into effect can be longer and more expensive than with a trust.

A court will examine the details of the will and if not stipulated beforehand select guardians over any minors and the executors involved. All of this can take over a year and leave your estate having to pay up around 2% to the Court, or even more of its total value.

However, there are clear advantages to having a will. Only a will can lay out your wishes regarding who you want to take care of your children. Therefore, if you are a parent, having a will drawn up is a must.

Additionally, a trust will only take into account the assets included in them. This means any personal items that are smaller and more sentimental in value that you wish to be distributed to individuals, in particular, are best served by a will.    

Creating a Trust: Advantages and Disadvantages 

The major advantage a trust will have for your beneficiaries is not having to go through the process of probate. But this comes at a cost.

Trusts are typically more expensive and in comparison to a will, that is drawn up and forgotten about, a trust requires far more maintenance.

You will need to ensure that the assets that you own are transferred from your name to the name of the trust. This can include title deeds to properties, bank accounts, and even vehicles. In fact, due to the labor involved in completing all this paperwork, it is not unheard of for people to not complete the process, meaning that they are not subject to the terms of the trust, potentially causing more issues down the line.

A trust does, however, allow more room for the unexpected twists and turns that one’s life can take. By including a successor trustee, you can arrange for someone you trust to take care of your affairs should you, due to an accident or illness, be unable to do so. This can provide peace of mind as it will avoid any court interventions over your assets.   

Will vs Trust: Which One Is for Me?

As we can see, there are many factors to take into account when deciding whether to have a will or a trust. Therefore what matters most is your personal set of circumstances. 

One thing to consider is whether your state permits informal probate.

This allows for the proceedings not to have to take place in court. This is an available opinion in the state of Wisconsin. Informal probate being available can greatly speed up the court process meaning that the common challenges associated with a will can be eased. 

Some people wish not to be involved in the management of their estate plan on a day to day basis. If that is the case for you, having a trust could prove to be a more complicated affair.    

It is however perfectly possible to have both. Wills and trusts serve slightly different purposes and can work hand in hand, to provide you with the security that you need.    

Here for You No Matter What You Decide

We hope that we have provided you with some clarity in your choice of will vs trust. Other questions and considerations can be discussed with a competent estate planning attorney.

In your moments reflecting over what happens to what matters most to you, you should feel confident that your final decisions are adhered to. To ensure that is the case don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. With over 150 years of legal experience among our team, you can be confident that you will be able to receive the help that you need. 

With or Without a Will: What Is Probate and How Does It Work?

Talking about probate and someone’s Last Will and Testament can often seem like a morbid and taboo subject. However, it’s important to know about these matters so that you and your family can be as prepared as possible when dealing with an estate. 

So what is probate? And how does it affect an estate and the estate’s beneficiaries? Keep on reading and we’ll take you through everything you need to know!

What Is Probate?

Probate is the process of authenticating the last will and testament if the deceased made one. It includes locating and determining the value of the person’s assets as well as paying their final taxes and bills. Also, the remainder of the estate is distributed to the proper beneficiaries. 

The probate process is supervised by a court. 

When Is the Probate Process Required?

There are specific laws in every state that determine what’s required to probate an estate. You can find these laws in the estate’s “probate codes.”

In Wisconsin, any estate that’s valued at more than $50,000 will have to go through the probate process. The probate process can sometimes be avoided if the estate is subject to certain exemptions. 

Some of these exemptions include life insurance proceeds, assets that are titled jointly with another individual, and any retirement fund where a beneficiary was chosen. Also, assets that are placed in a revocable living trust don’t have to go through the probate process.

If there isn’t a will, then the probate process will still be needed to pay the final bills of the deceased and to distribute their estate. The steps that are involved tend to be similar, whether or not there’s a will. 

Appointing the Personal Representative

A personal representative of the estate will be appointed by a judge. This personal representative is also sometimes called an administrator or an executor . This person will oversee the probate process and they will settle the estate. 

Usually, the decedent will include their choice for the personal representative in their will. If they don’t appoint someone in their will, then the court will usually choose the next of kin. This tends to be the surviving spouse or an adult child.

The individual isn’t obligated to serve as the personal representative and they can decline the position. 

The appointed personal representative will be given documentation that allows them to enter into transactions on the estate’s behalf. This documentation is referred to as “domiciliary letters.”

Identifying and Notifying Creditors

The creditors of the deceased will have to be identified. They will then need to be notified of the death. 

Because it may not be possible for the personal representative to know about all of the creditors of the deceased, they will have to post a notification of the death in a local newspaper. In this notification, they will have to include the name, birth date, and death date of the deceased. 

The personal representative will also need to include the name of the county where the probate estate is being opened and the deadline for filing any creditor claims. 

The personal representative has the ability to object to claims made by a creditor if they believe that the claim isn’t valid. The creditor can then petition the court and have the probate judge determine if the claim needs to be paid. 

Valid claims made by creditors will have to be paid. The personal representative will use funds from the estate to pay off all of the final bills and debts that the deceased left behind. This includes bills that might have been incurred during the final illness.  

Distributing the Estate

When all of the steps in the probate process have been completed, the personal representative will then be able to petition the court for permission to distribute what’s left of the decedent’s assets. These assets will be given to the beneficiaries who are named in the will. 

This may require permission from the court. The personal representative may only distribute after they have prepared a full accounting of every financial transaction that they’ve undertaken throughout the probate process. 

The personal representative needs to list and explain every expense that was paid and all of the income that was earned by the estate. Forms can be provided to the personal representative in order to make this process a bit easier. 

If the will lists minors as beneficiaries, the personal representative also might be in charge of setting up a trust to take possession of these bequests. This is because minors aren’t able to own their own property.

Sometimes, with adult beneficiaries, deeds and other similar documents have to be drawn up and filed with appropriate state officials in order to finalize the bequests.

“Intestate” Estates

An intestate estate is an estate where the deceased didn’t leave behind a valid will. This is either because their will wasn’t considered to be valid by the probate court or because one was never created. 

The main difference is that because there is no valid will, the decedent’s last wishes can’t be obliged. The estate will then have to pass to the closest relatives in an order determined by the law. 

The Importance of Knowing About the Probate Process

Hopefully, after reading the above article, you now have the answer to the question – “what is probate?” By knowing what probate is and how it works, you’ll be able to prepare your estate or the estate of a loved one. 

Are you looking for legal guidance with estate planning? Contact us today and see how we can help you! 

7 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Personal Injury Lawyer

Were you recently the victim of another’s negligence? Maybe you tripped and fell on someone else’s property. Maybe you were in a car accident?

Whatever the situation, it’s important to contact a personal injury lawyer right away. They can help you build a case to fight for the compensation you deserve.

That way, you won’t have to cover your lost wages, property damage, or medical bills alone. You will also be helped to learn the value of your “pain and suffering”.

Here are seven factors to consider before picking a personal injury Lawyer.

1. Specialized Experience

Before you start your search for a lawyer, make sure you understand what you’re looking for. What type of personal injury case do you have? There are a few categories your situation might fall under, such as:

  • An automobile accident (motorcycle, truck, bike, car, etc.)
  • Defamation
  • Medical malpractice (medication error, surgical error, misdiagnosis, etc.)
  • Wrongful death
  • Premise liability
  • Product liability
  • Slip and fall
  • Animal bites
  • Assault and battery

In some cases, you can separate a category into smaller subcategories. For example, maybe a surgeon left a piece of gauze in you after surgery. Maybe a doctor prescribed the wrong medication.

Both situations fall under the medical malpractice category.

Now that you know what type of personal injury case you have, look for a lawyer with the right experience. Their personal injury experience could make or break your case.

How long have they practiced as a licensed attorney? How many years have they spent practicing in the area?

Some laws can vary based on where you live.

How long has the lawyer specialized in your specific type of case? How many similar cases have they tried over the years? Were those cases a success?

Finding someone with the right specialty and plenty of experience will give you peace of mind about your own situation. 

2. A Strong Success Rate

It’s not enough to find someone with years of experience. You also want to make sure the personal injury lawyer you choose is a winner. Otherwise, you’ll fail to receive the compensation you need to cover your losses. 

Did you lose a loved one as a result of a personal injury incident? It happens more often than you might think. In fact, about 10% of all the world’s deaths are due to injuries. 

If you have a wrongful death case, you’ll want to find someone who can fight for you in court.

Take a look at how many cases they’ve handled overall. How many cases did they win versus lose?

Then, compare their overall track record to their recent track record. It’s normal to find someone who has improved over the years. You might find a lawyer with a stronger recent record.

Don’t forget to make sure those wins reflect your type of case. Otherwise, the personal injury attorney might struggle to win your lawsuit.

3. Courtroom Experience

Not every case goes to trial. Even so, you never know where your personal injury case might end up. Before you choose a lawyer, make sure they have years of courtroom experience under their belts. 

A lawyer needs to know how to handle themselves in a courtroom. They should have strong communication skills as well. Otherwise, they’ll struggle to argue on your behalf.

Some lawyers are nervous about going to court; so much so that they’ll try to avoid it.

If a lawyer lacks the experience you need, they might try to settle your case simply to avoid the courtroom. You could receive lower compensation as a result.

4. Board Certifications

If you want to find peace of mind about your decision, look for a lawyer who takes their knowledge base above and beyond.

First, make sure to check your local bar association. Are the lawyers on your list active members? If they’re not, cross them off the list and keep searching.

Next, make sure they have the proper license and insurance documents.

Now that you’re sure your choices are licensed to practice in the area, see if they’re a member of any organizations. There are state and national organizations designed to represent injured clients.  

For example, you might find lawyers with memberships to the American and Wisconsin Association of Justice of National Board of Trial Advocacy.

The latter indicates the lawyer has the courtroom experience you need.

5. An In-Person Consultation

Before hiring anyone, make sure to schedule an in-person consultation. Many lawyers offer free consultation appointments, giving them a chance to learn more about your case.

Explain your situation. Then, ask them about what outcome they anticipate. Can they handle your case?

Don’t trust someone who gives you a guarantee. No one can truly anticipate the outcome of your case. 

Do they have time in their schedule to handle your case? If not, keep looking. You want someone who can dedicate time and attention to your personal injury case.

6. Client References and Reviews

You don’t have to believe everything you hear. Instead, head online and look for references and reviews. Hearing from each lawyer’s previous clients will help you learn more about their abilities. 

You can find reviews on the law firm’s Google My Business and Better Business Bureau listing. Consider checking the Martindale Hubbell directory as well.

7. The Costs

Finally, make sure to talk to your lawyer about their fee structure. Do they take payment on a contingency fee basis? If so, they won’t expect payment unless they win your case.

In these instances, your lawyer will take a percentage of your winnings.

When comparing lawyer fees, make sure to review all of your notes. Don’t choose the cheapest option. Otherwise, you could choose a lawyer who lacks the skills you need.

Finding the Best Personal Injury Lawyer Around: 7 Factors to Keep in Mind

Ready to find the best personal injury lawyer in town? Make sure to keep these seven factors in mind during your search. With these tips, you can find someone with the qualifications and experience you need. 

Want to discuss your case with lawyers you can trust? We’re here to help.

Contact us today to discuss your case.

8 Signs You Should Hire a Commercial Real Estate Attorney

Owning a business is the American Dream. It’s the true passageway to living untethered to a job you despise. But pursuing that dream can be rife with obstacles, unforeseeable consequences, and legal problems. 

Ironically, a lot of businesses suffer from growing too rapidly. When a business is in its growth period, there’s potential for it to become unwieldy, and thus, unmanageable. This is doubly true if your business is in the process of expanding.

Expansions typically involve massive sweeps of commercial real estate. Growth through franchising or branching to new locations requires new property—and lots of paperwork.

You absolutely need a professional to handle the legality of commercial properties. These are the 8 signs you should hire a commercial real estate attorney. 

1. All of the Documents

When expanding the horizons of your business, it requires a lot of tedious paperwork. This is something you shouldn’t be managing yourself—you’ve got a business to run.

There are a lot of stipulations, legal regulations, and policies that weigh down the documents for acquiring new real estate. Unless you’ve been trained to interpret them, it’s unlikely you’ll understand the ramifications and due process of it all. You do not want to be left open to potential litigation in the future because you neglected to hire a lawyer. 

2. Someone to Make Deals on Your Behalf

When making large transactions, like buying and selling commercial properties, there’s a lot of negotiation that needs to be done. You can try to nickel and dime the other party on your own, but it’s not going to get you very far. 

Real estate lawyers know what to look for during negotiations of sales. They have years of experience to identify when someone is pulling the wool over their clients’ eyes.

Don’t get swindled into a bad deal. You should hire a lawyer. 

3. Can You Read That Fine Print?

Be wary of fine print. This should be taught to anyone that has the ability to sign their name.

When people come into hardship during real estate transactions, it’s usually because they failed to read something that most people glance over. 

When there’s a lot to read and digest, you should talk to your attorney. Don’t think ill of hiring a lawyer; it doesn’t make you litigious, it makes you smart and safe. 

Have them read the real estate contract and all of its fine print. You might have good eyes, but theirs are better. 

4. You’re Out of Your League 

Don’t overestimate your abilities. As a business owner, you’re likely a very savvy, intelligent person. But you do not have a formal background in law. 

The complexities of commercial real estate, and all of its fine-print, require years of schooling and even more years of practice. 

You might be able to handle opening up a small storefront in a local neighborhood by yourself. But the complexities scale exponentially with larger and larger plots of land. That’s negating the fact of where you might purchase real estate; some cities are even more demanding in their regulations. 

When things are getting too complex for you to follow, don’t let it get the best of you. 

5. Hire a Real Estate Attorney to Fight 

Combative landlords can sometimes pose a problem to business owners.

They have an investment in their property, and if you’re planning on leasing it, they should be aggressive. It’s in anybody’s best interest to be safe and to garner as much revenue as possible. 

But, as someone outside of the real estate game, it can be offputting. It’s even downright intimidating, at first. 

If you’re faced with a landlord that’s hounding you—seek legal help. 

Simply hiring a lawyer will show that you mean business. But having them fight your battles is a surefire way to stifle any shenanigans a land-owner might pull. Don’t plan on leasing without support. 

6. It’s a Risky Deal

Part of owning a business is knowing how to manage risk. Just about every investment has variables of uncertainty, which in turn, increase its riskiness. 

Properly managing risk is essential to the longevity of your business. Jumping into deals without hedging uncertainty is a recipe for disaster. It’s among the most prominent reasons a business fails during its growth stages. 

When dealing with real estate, your risk lies within market trends and legal regulation. The best way to hedge against the preventable (litigation) is by hiring a competent lawyer. 

7. Feeling Overwhelmed

When creating an empire—or even a new storefront to sell baked goods—there’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders. You have the livelihoods of your employees and yourself at stake. There is also the potential mounds of debt that a failing business accrues.

This will make you feel overwhelmed. It’s like a constant anvil sitting on your chest. The anxiety of owning any business can be crippling.

The key point is to recognize your stress. Knowing that there’s a problem is the first step to overcoming that problem. You don’t have to do it alone, either.

8. Contemplating Leaving the Deal or Jumping in Too Fast

Some deals aren’t meant to happen. But some are. Letting a negotiation slip through your hands is a devastating blow to a company. 

When you’re thinking of washing your hands of the entire thing, it’s a good idea to get a second opinion. This goes hand-in-hand with managing your stress properly. 

It’s equally important to be responsible. Don’t be hasty when jumping into a real estate deal. 

Having someone talk you down or up can make all of the difference. 

Lawyer Up!

Keeping your firm’s doors open is hard enough. It’s a constant battle of push-and-give to run your business. When you’re expanding operations, it’s vitally important to have a real estate attorney. 

Real estate deals come with a lot of documents, riddled with fine print, that is likely at a different complexity in which you can understand. You need a lawyer to fight your behalf in a negotiation; they’re trained professionals. Don’t let stress overwhelm you into making a bad decision.

Interested in learning more about commercial real estate? Let us know what you have in mind.