Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stolen Headstone at Forest Hill Cemetery

Apparently, not even the dead are exempt from theft. reports that a Janesville man visited his family's plot at Forest Hill Cemetery (located in Madison, Wisconsin) only to discover a headstone missing.

This raises a question I don't know the answer to -- who is responsible for paying to replace the headstone? To answer the question I would want to see the contract, but who would have it? Might there be one on file in the cemetery's business office? Or possibly the personal representative kept the contract. That is one think I really enjoy about the practice of law, new questions are always emerging, and discovering the answer is a great way to learn something new.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Feuding Over Inherited Packer Tickets

Prized possessions, every family has them. In Wisconsin season tickets to the Packers certainly ranks high enough in value to be included in an estate plan. Walter Christmas apparently turned to a trust in an effort to pass along the tickets, and any value, to his sons. Unfortunately, the trust agreement has not stopped feuding between his sons. I've included a link to the story of two brothers feuding over inherited Packer tickets.

Many clients think that a trust is a trouble-free way to leave possessions to family. As this story shows, trusts can't prevent family feuds.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Are Donor Advised Funds?

Here is a great, concise snapshot of donor advised funds. For some, this is a great way to work charitable giving into an estate plan. See the drawbacks listed before making any commitments.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Advance Directives

Yesterday's New York Times ran a chilling article, Kept From Dying Partner's Bedside, which is about a same-sex couple that was kept apart while one was dying in the hospital even though the couple had created powers of attorney. The article mentions that when the healthy partner was told she'd need a health care proxy, she had to contact someone and have it faxed to the hospital where the couple and their children were vacationing. Often I have seminar participants ask if a power of attorney for health care is valid if the person is traveling in another state. The answer is yes, if it is valid in the state you live, the other state should recognize the document.

This story is quite troubling, and will be one that I follow. Reading it, the one thought I have is that if you are in a relationship that is not traditionally recognized (same-sex couple or partnered but not married), you might want to have the documents in hand when you travel. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference in this case, but time can be of the essence.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Radio Program - Facing Death

This past Saturday Public Radio's To The Best of Our Knowledge ran a show titled "Facing Death". The first segment explored the question of whether aging, and thus death, can be stopped. The interview subject claims yes - just as we can keep machines like cars running for years, we should be able to do the same for the human body. Other segments focused on books related to dying and surviving near death experiences.

I listened as I drove to client meetings and found the show to be interesting....and I plan to read at least one or two of the books mentioned.

You can hear the show by visiting To The Best of Our Knowledge.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wizard of Oz Actor's Heirs Sue

Sadly, Mickey Carroll, one of the last surviving munchkins from the Wizard of Oz died recently. Shortly before his death he signed papers giving his long-time friend and caretaker power of attorney. Now his heirs have filed suit to freeze assets, claiming misappropriation.

This story show that even if you take steps to put your estate plan in order, infighting can occur. To assure that your wishes are followed be certain to seek legal counsel who specialize in the area of estate planning, and who should be looking to make sure undue influence is not occurring.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pet Trust Star Trek Style

Gene Roddenberry's widow, Majel, recently died and set up a pet trust. Yes, it is another high profile, high funded trust. This one leaves $4 million to her dogs. And the son of Gene and Majel, well he is well taken care of as well. For more details, click here. My husband is a huge Star Trek fan, and is delighted that the latest movie opens on his birthday. We've already bought tickets, so in a way, we are doing our bit to make sure the creator of Star Trek's dogs stay living in the manner they have grown accustomed to.

Pet trusts are not just for the rich and famous. Whether you need a trust to care for a pet after your death, or not, planning for the care of an animal is very important. Too many shelter animals arrive because of an untimely nursing home admission or death. Please take the time to consider who should take over for you if you cannot conitune on as your pet's guardian.

Free Seminar - Do Your Own Will

Thursday, May 14, 2009, at 7pm, I will be speaking on the topic of how to do your own will and other documents. The seminar is through the University of Wisconsin Extension, Financial Education Center. This seminar is FREE and open to the public. To register for the session, please call 608-261-5077.

If your company or organization would like to offer a similar seminar on wills and other documents, please contact my office at 608-274-7192 or email me at

Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Law

Yesterday I ordered a copy of Lawrence Friedman's new book, Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Law. It is summarized nicely here, and is a bit too new for book reviews. I first read Lawrence Friedman in undergrad, taking a law and sociology class. He is a wonderful writer, who can weave the legal world into a social context. I'll be posting future updates once the book arrives in my mailbox.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tips on Being Charitable

I came across this NY Times article and thought the tips on how to be charitable with non-profits were practical and wise. Key concepts are to be flexible, think about the long-range, and choose an institution you can trust.