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H&J Blog

Texas Court Strikes Down Obama Overtime Rule

Last week District Court Judge Amos Mazzant in Plano, Texas ruled that recent overtime changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act would not be implemented. You may have heard about this and even been preparing. The changes would have increased the minimum wage for application of the rule to about $47,000 per year. Anyone who made less than this amount and is doing executive work would need to be paid time and a half for any work week over 40 hours and would need to make minimum wage when averaged out despite their salary. It can be a gigantic administrative...

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Top 10 Legal Tips for Pilots

Pilots must become “familiar with all available information concerning [the] flight”. Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) § 91.103. These tips should help pilots increase their awareness of the legalities of flight. Remember, the FAA thinks of the pilot’s license as a privilege, and does not hesitate to hand out certificate suspensions to prove it.   Always carry a NASA form. “Things happen”; just because you were not aware the President and joint chiefs were holding a meeting at a hotel ballroom directly under your flight path, does not matter to the F-16 pilot ordered to “escort” you back to the ground. Similarly,...

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The Dilemma of Jointly Owned Real Estate

The Dilemma of Jointly Owned Real Estate All too often, parents with good intentions leave real estate to multiple children as co-owners. This can be done through lifetime gifting (i.e., through a quit claim deed) or upon death through a transfer on death deed, by will or by trust. Unfortunately, this strategy often creates family feuds when some siblings wish to keep the property and others wish to sell. Further, when some siblings won’t (or are unable to) cover their share of the costs involved in the maintenance and upkeep of the property, the others will understandably become resentful over time. Provided...

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Equine Estate Planning: Do you have a plan for your horse?

The Problem Wisconsin law views our horses and other pets/animals as property. Without written instructions of your wishes, no legal protections exist for your “property.” You cannot leave money or property directly to your animal(s), and informal arrangements are not legally enforceable. What’s the solution? Formally incorporate your four-legged family members into your estate plan! Essential Estate Planning Documents Regardless of your age or financial circumstances, everyone needs an estate plan. For the benefit of your loved ones, you should have at least the following basic estate planning documents in place: ·        Will (does not avoid probate) or Living Trust (avoids probate) ·        Property Power of Attorney ·        Health Care Documents (Health Care Power...

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When is it too late for Estate Planning?

I recently took a trip to central Mexico to visit my parents, who have retired there. While eating breakfast at a restaurant in the Mérida airport upon our arrival my husband asked my 96-year-old grandmother, who was diagnosed several years ago with Alzheimer’s disease and now lives with my parents, “So Mary, what do you appreciate most about living in Mexico?” My grandmother replied, “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been to Mexico!” Fortunately, everyone at the table (except, perhaps, my 4-year-old daughter) knew the best response in this situation was to smile and simply redirect our conversation. For obvious reasons, it would be too...

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The Brady Bunch: What if Mike and Carol had no Estate Plan?

Many of us grew up watching The Brady Bunch, a popular family sitcom of the late 1960s to early 1970s revolving around a large blended family with 6 children, and many of us can also personally relate to the situation. Statistics show that more than half of all first marriages end in divorce and about 75% of divorced people will marry again, according to the National Stepfamily Resource Center. About 65% of these unions will include children from previous marriages. More than 40% of American adults have at least one step-relative, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. Like Mike and...

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WISCONSIN RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE AND ONLINE FORMS DO NOT MIX

Before I start haranguing landlords about the hazards of using online forms, let me start at the beginning of why we have lawyers, laws, and even crazy laws. Lawyers are necessary in this nation of laws. Laws govern collective behavior from how fast you can drive to where you can build a building and whether you have to follow safe building practices in doing so. Without elaborating on anarchy, suffice to say that anarchy means people drive as fast as they want, on or off the road, cut corners when building houses, skyscrapers, or bridges. And when they see something someone...

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How Vacation Planning is Similar to Estate Planning

My husband and I just returned from a much-needed vacation to Cozumel, Mexico.  When I considered the steps it took to get us there, it occurred to me that vacation planning is surprisingly similar to estate planning! From considering the type of vacation that made the most sense for our family, to researching options online, to choosing a travel agent, every step was equally important to ensure our vacation would meet our expectations. Because we would be traveling with our 3.5-year-old daughter, traveling on the cheap and hoping the pieces came together in the end was simply not a viable option. Therefore,...

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Considerations in a “Gray Divorce”

The frequency of “Gray Divorce” is increasing in Wisconsin.    According to the Washington Post, in the last 25 years, the divorce rate for couples over 50 years old has doubled.  The rate for those over 65 has more than doubled.  As a Wisconsin divorce lawyer, I have noticed the changing demographic of my clients.  To meet the challenges and needs of my clients, I must be educated on the specific issues involved in a  “gray divorce.”  Some of those issues are:        Social security:  be aware of the benefits available for both spouses.  For example, spouses married at least 10...

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The Handshake Agreement is Worth the Paper it is Written On

Co-ownership of an airplane is the cheapest way to fly. Many pilots start out in one of these. Variations of this type of ownership are flying clubs, fractional ownership, or unspoken agreements that more than one person fly an aircraft titled to one person. As the cost of aircraft maintenance and storage is high, it makes sense for most pilots to share the costs with others in exchange for flight time. Anyone in one of these situations, however, could face unseen risk. This risk generally exists in handshake agreements, gentlemen’s pacts, or unwritten rules about part ownership, when nothing is on...

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Common Questions About Medicaid and Medicaid Planning

What Is Medicaid? Medicaid is a need-based medical assistance program administered by federal and state governments. It provides a wide range of medical services to the aged and disabled. You cannot exceed certain income and resource limits if you wish to qualify for Medicaid; you will probably need to “spend down” your assets until you reach required minimums before you are eligible for Medicaid. State and federal governments continue to tinker with Medicaid eligibility and spend down rules. Planning opportunities are available now (even though a spouse may already be in a nursing home) that may not be available in the future....

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Death Probate: What’s the Big Deal?

Many people often assume that, if they have a will, then there should be no need for a court proceeding upon death. After all, you spelled out all of your wishes in writing, and even signed your will at a lawyer's office with witnesses and notaries, so why would a judge get involved? In reality, if you die in Wisconsin owning assets titled solely in your name with a total value exceeding $50,000 (excluding assets with direct beneficiaries such as life insurance or retirement accounts), then these assets must go through the death probate process before they can be transferred to...

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Even Vampires Need Estate Planning

I am often asked whether an estate plan is truly necessary, especially for those who feel they are too young to be concerned about death, incapacity or taxes.  In my professional opinion, unless you can guarantee that you are not going to die or become incapacitated anytime soon, then yes, you do need an estate plan now even if you are young. In my profession, I also encounter those who wish to believe they are immortal.  This argument seems to be a common occurrence when one spouse wishes to plan and the other refuses to even discuss the matter because, well,...

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Three Common Estate Planning Mistakes Made with Real Estate

Estate planning truly is the ultimate gift for your loved ones, and a comprehensive estate plan should always include a review of the titles and beneficiary designations for all assets to ensure they are consistent with your estate planning objectives. Otherwise, unintended consequences may ensue. Real estate, in particular, can be the cause of serious family conflict when not handled properly with your estate plan. After many years of witnessing the disastrous consequences of poor estate planning, here are three common estate planning mistakes made with real estate that you should avoid within your own estate plan whenever possible: Naming Direct Beneficiaries on...

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How Can I Avoid Probate?

Estate planning truly is the ultimate gift for your loved ones, and a comprehensive estate plan should always include a review of the titles and beneficiary designations for all assets to ensure they are consistent with your estate planning objectives. Otherwise, unintended consequences may ensue. The manner in which your assets are held will determine whether or not each asset will go through probate upon your death. Any asset titled in your name alone, with no designated beneficiary, will go through probate. Further, any asset designating your estate as the named beneficiary will also go through probate. Assets titled in the following manner will not go through probate...

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The True Value of a Turtle Bell

My grandparents’ home in San Antonio, Texas was beautiful and mysterious, and was also one of the most uncomfortable places for a young child. Surrounded by irreplaceable artwork and collections from around the world, I learned from an early age not to touch anything. The only exceptions to this rule were two brass turtle hotel bells my grandmother kept on her coffee table in the “sitting room”. Each turtle had a wind-up bell mechanism on its underside, and when the turtle’s head or tail was pressed down the bell wound ring. As an only child for the first ten years...

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Buying a New Home? Make Sure Closing is a Happy Event!

Buying a home can be one of the happiest, most exciting days of your life!  It can also be one of the most stressful! And if the proper pieces aren't in place, chances are your big day is going to be filled with anxiety and uncertainty. So how can you make sure your closing is a happy event you'll remember for the rest of your life?  Well, it's really pretty simple!  Just make sure you have your team in place first.  My team?  That's right, the professionals who will help make sure your best interests are served from start to finish. Your team includes your...

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How to Make Sure Your Children Don’t Inherit at Age 18

If you are the parent of minor children, then having a will in place is essential. In addition to designating guardians for your children and naming a personal representative (a/k/a “executor”), your will also sets forth the disposition of your estate upon your death and should include the creation of testamentary trusts to ensure your children do not inherit your assets at age 18. A “testamentary trust” is a type of trust which arises upon your death, and which is created under the terms of your will. Often, parents who create a will unintentionally override the provisions of their wills by...

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The Trouble with “I Love You” Wills

The most common estate planning document used by married couples is affectionately referred to by estate planning attorneys as the “I Love You” Will. Within this type of will, each spouse leaves all assets to the surviving spouse upon the first death, then to the couple’s joint children upon the second death. Provided you and your spouse title all assets jointly and name each other as direct beneficiaries on your life insurance policies and retirement accounts, there is generally no probate proceeding upon the first death and your will never even comes into play. After this, things can get tricky with some...

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5 Reasons You Need a Will if You Have Minor Children

If you are the parent of a minor child or minor children, having a will in place is essential. With a properly drafted will, you can accomplish all of the following: Name a Guardian 1. Your will designates your preference for guardians of your minor children. Name a Personal Representative 2. Your will names a personal representative (also known as an executor) who will be in charge of your estate upon your death. Control the Distribution of Your Children's Inheritance 3. Your will can establish testamentary trusts for your children to ensure they do not inherit your assets outright at age 18. To fully accomplish this...

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Wisconsin Pet Trusts

The Attorneys and staff at Horn & Johnsen SC know that our pets are friends, companions and family rather than property. >Unfortunately, Wisconsin law views our pets as property. The bottom line is: without written instructions of your wishes, your "property" can be legally destroyed. Every hour of everyday 50 companion animals are euthanized in US animal shelters simply because their human companions died and made no arrangements for their continuous care. Moreover, informal arrangements are not enforceable.  Leaving your pet and some cash to a beneficiary in your will could result in the pet being euthanized and the money being pocketed. In...

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Who is Responsible for the Debts of My Parents When They are Gone?

Over the years, I have received many questions from clients and others regarding estates. A very common question is, “Who will be responsible for the debts of my parents when they are gone?” This question is most concerning when you become aware that your parent(s) do not have sufficient assets of their own to pay their debts. Children are not personally responsible for their parents’ debts. Your parent’s estate will be held responsible for his or her debts and, if there are any assets left over after all debts and expenses have been paid, the beneficiaries of his or her estate...

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The Nursing Home Dilemma

Clients and prospective clients often ask me about legal options available so that they might qualify for Medical Assistance in the event they need nursing home care at some time in the future. Some suggest gifting to their children during their lifetimes while others suggest establishing an irrevocable trust known as a “Medical Assistance” trust to protect their assets. This is a very tricky question and if you are considering this approach I would strongly urge you to read the following article published in the personal finance section of the Forbes website: Beware of This Financial Advice About Aging Parents. While there are...

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Do I Really Need an Attorney to Set Up an LLC?

There can be many benefits to creating a Limited Liability Company, whether you own an apartment complex, have a consulting business or are selling cupcakes. With a properly organized and managed LLC, you can protect your personal assets from the debts, obligations, and potential lawsuits of your business. In addition, a Limited Liability Company can provide for continuity in the event an owner dies, becomes incapacitated, or leaves the business. In Wisconsin, the Department of Financial Institutions offers an online method to quickly file Articles of Organization for a Limited Liability Company. Many assume that, after answering a few questions online and paying...

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What Is a WisPACT?

Many individuals, whether young or old, are receiving valuable public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medical Assistance. Anyone who has gone through the qualification process for these types of entitlement programs is well aware that the application process alone can be a nightmare!   Sometimes, a well-meaning relative will leave an inheritance directly to a beneficiary who is receiving public benefits. This can be through a will, or possibly through a beneficiary designation on a bank account, a retirement account, or a life insurance policy. Other times, a person who is receiving public benefits will suddenly become the recipient...

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Cabin Trusts – Let’s Keep It In The Family!

In Wisconsin, I have many clients who own a family vacation home “Up North”.  In fact, within my own family, we have a lovely cabin in Vilas County where we spend many relaxing holiday weekends together.  Therefore, I personally understand the importance of planning to ensure a treasured family cabin can remain within the family following the death of a parent or parents. Within a revocable living trust, a popular and very effective option is to create a separate “Cabin Trust” that will spring into existence upon the death of the trustor(s) (note that the “trustor” is the person who creates...

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Protect Your Pets with a Pet Trust!

What will happen to Fluffy or Benji upon your death? One would hope that a family member or other loved one would agree to care for your pet and expect nothing in return. After all, anyone who knows you fully appreciates that your pet is not just an item of personal property, but a member of your family… right? Unfortunately, many pets are abandoned after the death of their owners. According to the ASPCA, about half of all pets that end up in animal shelters are euthanized. Caring for another person’s pet can be a great personal responsibility, not to mention...

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Providing Divorce Protection for Your Children

Providing Divorce Protection for Your Children Despite the fact that the Baby Boomer generation has seen high divorce rates, my experience has been that parents of Baby Boomers generally did not wish to discuss divorce protection for their children and grandchildren.  Times have changed… Most people now acknowledge that divorce is a common occurrence.  Therefore, why not provide your beneficiaries with the opportunity to protect their inherited assets in the event of a future divorce? Traditional estate planning, including the use of direct beneficiary designations, wills, and “bare bones” living trusts, usually provide for an outright distribution to your beneficiaries upon your death.  Most...

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