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Milwaukee, WI 53202
Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP

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milwaukee estate planning lawyerBy: Attorney Danielle Rousset

Recently, the BBC reported that the last will and testament of Prince Philip, the late husband of England’s Queen Elizabeth II, would be sealed for 90 years following his death in April of 2021. While the laws surrounding wills are different in the United States, and they can vary from state to state, some Americans may have wondered if they can take advantage of similar options to ensure that their private affairs will not be made public following their death. By understanding how probate matters are handled in Wisconsin, the state’s residents can determine the best steps they can take to make sure their wishes will be followed correctly while maintaining privacy whenever possible.

Wills and Probate Court

Following a person’s death, the executor of their estate will file their last will and testament in probate court. During the probate process, the executor will take an inventory of the estate, pay any applicable debts or taxes on behalf of the decedent, and distribute the person’s assets to their heirs while following the instructions the decedent provided in their will. Matters handled in probate court are part of the public record, which means that the contents of a last will and testament will be publicly accessible. Court records related to probate litigation will also be available to the public.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_attn-erin-2.jpgBy: Attorney Erin Strohbehn

When a person creates a last will and testament, they will make decisions about what should be done with their property and assets after their death. A person may choose to divide their assets among their loved ones, including their spouse, children, or other family members, and they may also specify that money or assets should be donated to charity or used for other purposes. In some cases, a person who expected to receive an inheritance may find that they were excluded from their loved one’s will, and they may wish to pursue probate litigation to address this issue. In these situations, a person will need to understand their rights and legal options.

Contesting a Will in Wisconsin

The terms of a person’s last will and testament will generally be followed, as long as the will was valid and executed correctly. In some cases, a presumed beneficiary may contest the validity of a will. A beneficiary may claim that the person did not have “testamentary capacity,” meaning that they were not of sound mind when they created their will or did not fully understand the decisions being made. A will may be challenged if a beneficiary believes that someone exerted “undue influence” on the person, such as by threatening or coercing them into creating a will that went against their actual wishes. Challenges to a will may also be based on claims of fraud or forgery, such as the belief that the will was altered by another party after it was signed.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_attn-erin-1.jpgBy: Attorney Erin Strohbehn

There are multiple types of trusts that can help protect assets. When a trust is created, assets will be placed in the control of a trustee, who will ensure that money or property will be properly distributed to the beneficiaries named in the trust. However, disputes can sometimes arise between the beneficiaries of a trust and the trustee. In these cases, beneficiaries will need to understand their legal options, including whether they can pursue litigation and what remedies may be available for a breach of trust.

Breach of Trust Litigation

A trustee owes a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of a trust. This means that they are required to act in the beneficiaries’ best interest when managing the assets in the trust and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Beneficiaries may believe that a trustee has committed a breach of trust if they failed to follow their fiduciary duty. For example, a trustee may be accused of mismanaging the trust’s assets or using assets in the trust to pay themselves more than what would be appropriate. A trustee may also have a conflict of interest when managing assets, such as by using the funds in the trust to invest in a business that they own.

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Milwaukee estate planning lawyerBy: Attorney Erin Strohbehn

Issues related to adult guardianship have been in the news recently due to a prominent legal case involving Britney Spears. The pop star has spoken out against the conservatorship that has given her father and others control over her life and finances. Because of this, people in Wisconsin may be curious about their own rights in guardianship cases. Those who are looking to establish guardianship or conservatorship for an adult and people who may need assistance with their personal or financial needs can consult with an estate planning attorney to understand their rights and options.

Details of Britney Spears’ Conservatorship Case

As a person who is in the public eye, Britney Spears’ personal struggles have been well-known. Following a meltdown in the mid-2000s, she was placed on an emergency psychiatric hold, and this led people close to her to establish a conservatorship in which her father, Jamie Spears, and other people assumed control over her personal and financial affairs. While some people involved have stated that this conservatorship was meant to be temporary, it has remained in place for 13 years. Ms. Spears has attempted to get out of this legal agreement, and she has claimed that she has been forced to take medications against her will and that she has no control over whether she can get married or have children. Notably, Jamie Spears has received compensation for serving as his daughter’s conservator, including an annual salary of $130,000 and a percentage of the revenues from her performances.

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Milwaukee, WI charitable trust attorneyBy:  Attorney Denis J. Regan and Paralegal Steven M. Lant

During the estate planning process, you will want to make sure your family members will have the resources they need after you are gone, and you can also make sure your wishes will be followed throughout the rest of your life. However, in the event you have substantial assets beyond the level necessary to support or assist children, you may want to consider the legacy you leave behind from a charitable perspective.  Incorporating charitable giving into your estate plan is a great way of supporting causes you believe in and using your financial resources in a positive way.  The most common method is to provide specific bequests to designated charities in your will/revocable trust.  For charitably inclined persons with substantial resources, charitable trusts can offer a number of benefits for the organizations worthy of support, as well as you and your family members.

Types of Charitable Trusts

When you create a trust, you will place certain assets in the control of a trustee and provide instructions for when and how the assets should be distributed to your beneficiaries. This will protect your assets and ensure that they will be used properly. With a charitable trust, you can name one or more charitable organizations as a beneficiary, and assets may be donated in a lump sum or over time. Unlike living trusts, charitable trusts are usually irrevocable, and once they are created, they cannot be modified.

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