I am so lucky. A number of years ago, a client created a donor advised fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. We structured guidelines for his fund to meet his charitable interests. When he passed, I took over as the advisor. The first year I had to make distributions, I was literally shaking. I so wanted to honor his desires and goals. The next year I really enjoyed it. The third year I was able to create a synergy between two of his goals. This year I am so overwhelmed. There isn't a charity that won't need extra funding, from the ballet to food banks to the free loan society. And of course, the amount of money we all have to give, including the fund with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation is diminished. I am afraid we will not see many of the arts organizations survive. But when I make this year's allocations I know it will truly be appreciated by the organizations. If you are one of the lucky ones surviving financially in these crazy times, I would love to help you design a charitable plan. With wishes for the a bright future for all of us, Stephanie
I really am one of the few attorneys in the state (and maybe the country) who has created more than 6 pet trusts for various clients. I now am one of those clients. As you can see on my home page, Graycie has a skin condition and the vet costs have been pretty extensive. I don't want anyone to have to bear the cost of her medical treatment. Thus, she has her own trust. Pet trusts can be for all types of animal and designed in all fashions. I have one in Waukesha County that just terminated which I thought was a magnificent design for my late clients' cats. Ask me about it next time we meet.
Recently I had the experience of creating Wills for a couple who are of the Bah'ai faith. It turned out to be the most interesting combination of religious beliefs and secular law. That is what I love about my practice. Every client is unique and every plan and document matches that uniqueness. There are no forms that I purchased or someone else's computer generated programs in my practice. I create everything for the client's individual needs and wants. Thank goodness I do. There are not many of us left who address things in this fashion.
A few years ago a client of my passed away. He left most of his money to a donor advised fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. We had devised a plan for him prior to his passing and he was kind enough to put me in charge of the fund at his death. What an honor. I now make grants on his behalf to the causes he cared about. A few of those include the Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Symphony and UPAF. But there are also other smaller social service groups that are tied to the Milwaukee community. I usually plan out the donations in March and every year I pinch myself that I am so lucky to do this. I urge my clients to check out the Greater Milwaukee Foundation as part of their charitable gifting. They will manage donor advised funds beginning at $25,000.00. Call me if you want more information or call them.
When I began my practice we had a library/conference room that was at least 3 times the size of what was my office. The book cases were floor to ceiling and it cost a lot in time and money to keep it all up to date. Today, I have 3 times the size of that library on my laptop. No need for a library room any more. We also had an enormous file room. We had to have the files accessible in case someone called and needed an immediate answer. At $20 a square foot it cost a small fortune to house them. Today, the files are in off site storage, but I can still access most everything from my own personal cloud and the best part is I can be anywhere. There also had to be someone to be there to answer the phone. No one wanted or trusted voice mail. My how things have changed. I answer my own phone and leaving messages for me if I can't get to the phone is comfortable and routine. Computers have eliminated some staff as well. Court filing are done directly from my computer. I wonder what my grandfather would say if he could see this all. I think he would be amazed that that the physical practice of law has certainly changed. What has not changed is the need for good service and knowledge and expertise in the field of the practitioner.
Clients are still asking me about estate taxes. Temporarily, the Federal estate taxes are only applied to estates over $11.58 million, per individual. Wisconsin has no estate tax or inheritance tax. Thus, for now most of my clients do not have to worry about estate taxes. The things to worry about is just having a viable plan in place for your loved ones be it human ones or furry one. But this is another reason to check in with your attorney every 3 years or so to see what changes are happening with the estate tax.
I have always offered clients the service of placing their will in the courthouse vault of the county where they reside. The cost to keep your will in the courthouse vault is $10.00 forever and ever. If of course you have a new will, it will be another $10.00 to put the new one in and we pull out the old one and shred it. So many attorneys don't know that this option exists or don't tell their clients. Two weeks ago I was at a Milwaukee County probate meeting and the question of lost wills came up. I replied, "What lost wills? My clients have theirs in the vault." All the commissioners and probate court personal were busy nodding and smiling. Of course the next week I took on a probate case where we couldn't find the original will. The deceased client did have a copy. His attorney says he doesn't have the original. So we had start a special administration in probate court to hire a locksmith to get into his bank box. Of course there was no will there. So now we are starting a formal probate to prove up the copy of the will. The expenses for this are adding up quickly. Probably an extra $1,500. Make sure your wills are safe and accessible to your loved one. Not only will it save time and aggravation it will save money.
Not really a blog post, but I would like to share with everyone that I am now a certified yoga instructor. How does that help me in my law practice? Not sure yet, but it was another type of challenge for me to master. I guess I am finding it is not enough to just be in an intellectual space all day, the physical is just as important. I will use my new skill as needed for charitable events and such. As of now, I am leading a community Yoga practice on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm at the Quaker House. It is a beautiful location on the river and the classes are free, although we do ask for a donation to the Quaker House.
Wisconsin can sometimes be in the forefront of estate planning legislation and they have done it again this month in passing new laws regarding the handling of digital property. Digital property would be such items as an email account, facebook, linkin, or twitter account. The Wisconsin law governs the disclosure of digital property in a person’s estate to a personal representative or special administrator, to an agent under a power of attorney, to a trustee of a trust, or to a conservator or guardian of a protected person. Instructions can be made for disclosure to such representatives through a will, trust, power of attorney, or other governing instrument.
The ability access such accounts and modify them or cancel them is an important one in this day and age of highly utilized technology. The new law does not change or impair the rights of the digital provider under the entity's service agreement, but it does advance the cause of the user's representative to handle matters for or on behalf of the user.
Perhaps it is time to review your documents to ensure that that you have provided such authorization in your documents and your digital assets can be controlled along the same manner as your physical assets.
This week an old client I hadn't seen or heard from in 9 years called and sheepishly told me he went to see another attorney some years ago and begged me to allow him to return to me for his estate planning. He didn't have to beg, of course I am pleased to see him and told him that repeatedly. He feels he was conned into seeing this other attorney by a financial planner who was after his business. The planner offered a free review of his financials and then insisted on him getting new estate documents with the planner's attorney referral.
Please don't ever allow yourself to feel pressured by any of your advisors. You have the right and the power to ask questions, take your time to consider matters, do your homework and really investigate who you are working with. Ask the advisor if there is a relationship and what the relationship is with any of the referrals made.
As to his "new" documents they aren't bad, but they aren't good either. They contain a lot of boiler plate that is not applicable to him or his situation. The "new" attorney did get him to execute a financial power of attorney which I was never able to get him to create, (good for them) but they also created a revocable trust that was totally unnecessary and serves no legitimate purpose in his plan. I am going to fix things up for him and hopefully the next time he feels pressure to do something, even from me, he asks questions and gets answers.
I love a website with a blog. Now I have a platform to write about all the fun things I get to do as an attorney. So look for more posts and feel free to ask me to write about various topics that are of interest to you.