Frequently Asked Questions

If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

1. Your offices are located downtown, but I am unable to drive. Will you come to my home?

Answer:  Yes, we will travel to clients’ homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes and other locations throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

2. If I have a Will, must my estate still pass through probate?

Answer: Yes, by executing a Will and not engaging in any additional estate planning, you are ensuring that your estate will be administered through a probate proceeding. In short, probate is a court-supervised process that requires the appointment of a personal representative to take charge of the administration of your estate.

3. Are there other ways to avoid probate besides a trust?

Answer: Yes. Ways to avoid probate include: transfer on death deeds, payable on death designations, joint tenancy, and others. However, whether other means of probate avoidance are appropriate depends on each individual’s assets, goals, tax consequences and other issues that should be carefully evaluated on a case by case basis.

4. If I already have estate planning documents in place, do I ever need to update them?

Answer: We recommend that you revisit your documents every time there is a major life event like a birth, death, or marriage. Even if you have not experienced a major life event, we recommend you review your documents every 5 to 7 years as changes in the law may have occurred that impact your estate plan.

5. How do I know if there has been a change in the law that impacts my estate planning documents?

Answer: We provide our clients, former clients, and other interested individuals with a quarterly Yourlaw newsletter that covers a number of legal topics. We also provide an insert to our Yourlaw which covers any changes relevant to estate planning or elder law.

6. I have heard that there have been changes made to the laws regarding financial powers of attorney.  If I had my power of attorney prepared before these changes took place, is my current financial power of attorney still effective?

Answer: In 2009, the Wisconsin Legislature approved changes to the statutes governing the form and content of financial powers of attorney. These changes took effect on September 1, 2010. The changes to the law do not invalidate a power of attorney executed prior to their implementation (provided the power was valid under the law as it existed at the time the power was executed). However, a power of attorney drafted after the changes took effect can incorporate provisions authorized under the new law that enhance the efficacy and flexibility of the document. Therefore, if you executed your power of attorney prior to September 1, 2010, it may be beneficial to review the document with us to ensure that it is optimized to meet your needs.

7. I have read there is a 5 year “look back” period for gifts made by individuals applying for Medicaid of Title 19.  Does this mean there is no way to preserve or protect assets if you enter a nursing home within 5 years of making a gift?

Answer: No. While the asset protection techniques are more complicated than ever, there are still options available even upon entry into a nursing home.

8. What is a fiduciary tax return?  Does your office prepare fiduciary tax returns?

Answer: A “fiduciary” is a person or entity that has the power and obligation to act for another under circumstances which require trust, good faith and honesty. Two of the most common fiduciary positions are: (1) the trustee of a trust, and (2) the personal representative (or executor) of a decedent’s estate. After someone passes away, the trustee of their trust or the personal representative of their estate must file one or more fiduciary tax returns on behalf of the trust or estate. The fiduciary return is an income tax return for the trust or estate at issue. Our attorneys frequently prepare fiduciary tax returns for both trust and estates.

9.  Does your office prepare other types of tax returns as well?

Answer: As estate planning, small business and elder law practitioners, it is important for our attorneys to understand the tax consequences associated with any course of action recommended to our clients. Accordingly, tax planning and preparation is an integral part of our practice. In addition to the fiduciary tax returns discussed above, we prepare federal and state personal income tax returns, estate tax returns, and gift tax returns.