Our law firm will be closed on September 6, in observance of Labor Day 2021. This U.S. federal holiday recognizes the social and economic achievements of American workers.
The first U.S. observation of the holiday occurred in 1894. The holiday always falls on the first Monday in September. Federal government statistics show that more than 145,000,000 men and women are employed in our country.
We hope you are celebrating Labor Day 2021 with your family and friends. We’re here to help you with any estate planning needs you may have. Call us at 262-632-2899 or email@example.com at your convenience.
To all the clients and friends of Rebecca Mason Law, we wish you a happy 4th of July. Today we celebrate America’s birthday and remember the sacrifices that have been made for this amazing country. We are lucky to be able to call ourselves American. We want to take this opportunity to thank all those who have sacrificed to make this country a better place.
Have a safe 4th everyone, and happy birthday America.
As a note: our office will be closed monday July 5th for the holiday. However please use the contact form on our homepage if you need anything.
Some of our readers have never heard of Decoration Day. What we now call Memorial Day was originally Decoration Day.
In the mid-late 1800s families visited local cemeteries or traveled out of town to military cemeteries. They visited to decorate the graves of loved ones who died during military service and remember.
The Library of Congress reports that the first national celebration took place on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery.
The transition to Memorial Day
Participation in Decoration Day was considered a civic duty. Every American was expected to decorate the graves of the people who died while serving in the armed forces. Early on, different states chose different dates to honor the dead. At the turn of the century, Americans began referring to the holiday as Memorial Day. In 1971, officials moved the holiday to the last Monday in May. The recognition was formalized to honor all American soldiers who died in all wars.
In modern times, people connect the holiday with family gatherings, BBQs, and retail sales. However, as we come out of lockdown from Covid-19 we are thankful it is still celebrated with parades and cemetery visits across America.
Memorial Day has an important role
It is important to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the name of our country. We may be more aware of them, and their service, now than we were in years past.
The United States is slowly coming out of this pandemic and pulling out our folding chairs. Think about your loved ones and remind them why we celebrate Memorial Day. So take a few minutes to consider what Memorial Day used to be, what it is today, and why it matters.
Last year, back when things were the old normal and we had Christmas pageants and were able to gather in person, our kids were proud to sing with the children’s choir. Driving home from church, one asked: “Who is Aunt Chelsea?” I racked my brain. We don’t have any family members named Chelsea. I asked if she meant our friend Chelsea?
No. She wanted to know more about Aunt Chelsea who let Mary and Joseph stay with her that first Christmas. “You know. Gloria, in Aunt Chelsea’s Stable.” They had sung their hearts out to the hymn “Gloria” all the while thinking that Aunt Chelsea was a pretty kind person.
This year is hard. We are separated from so many loved ones. We can’t gather like we use to.
Be safe. Be healthy. Remember all the Aunt Chelsea’s in our lives.
Wishing you and your loved ones peace and happiness this Christmas. We all look forward to meeting in person in 2021.
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
I see the impact of problematic in-laws on a weekly basis.
To be clear, I struck gold with my own in-laws. They are extremely supportive and loving. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say the feelings are mutual. One of the hardest things about social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is not being able to spend time together in person. Thanksgiving and the rest of this holiday season are going to be particularly difficult.
But not everyone has a great relationship with their in-laws. In fact, based on what we see in our office, it is not uncommon for families to have at least one problematic in-law. Someone who is just out of sync with the rest of the family.
Why does a problematic in-law impact your estate planing?
If you do not yet have an estate plan and you do not have a surviving spouse, Wisconsin law designates your children as the “natural objects of your bounty.” That means your child or children will inherit your estate. When you have family harmony, this makes sense. In fact, for those who have the foresight to make an estate plan, most leave their estate to their children (if there is no surviving spouse). Many of us sacrifice a bit throughout our lifetimes with the hope of passing some inheritance to our children. It is the natural order of things.
Some things are out of our control
And then your child goes off and marries someone you distain. Not someone who is a little annoying. Someone who is simply awful, loathsome, and repulsive. If your child inherits your estate, what happens if she predeceases you? Allows his spouse to consume the inheritance? What if she gets divorced?
Part of growing up is allowing your child to make their own choices. But our choices have consequences. There are a few techniques you can use in your estate plan to address the problematic in-law. This is not about teaching your child a lesson. It is about protecting the inheritance.
The most extreme option is to disinherit your child. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently reaffirmed that one of your most important rights is the power to dispose of your property as you choose and, therefore, parents have no duty to leave their estate to their children. Nonetheless, disinheriting a child can have significant emotional and financial consequences for your loved ones. It can be emotionally painful for the child. It can also deny your child funds that could provide additional financial stability. Her siblings may feel guilty for inheriting their sibling’s share of the estate. And it can lead to a court challenge and protracted litigation over the inheritance.
You have options
In the alternative, you can work with your lawyer to decrease the likelihood that the problematic in-law receives anything from your estate. The most common approach is to hold the funds in a trust for your child’s benefit and restrict the spouse’s access to the funds. Then, if your child gets divorced, the assets are protected and preserved for your child. And upon your child’s death, the funds can be directed to your child’s children (your grandchildren) or divided among your surviving children and/or charities.
You can also skip a generation and gift the funds to your child’s children. This is actually a common approach when a child predeceases – even when you like the in-law. You can accomplish this through outright gifts to your grandchildren or holding the inheritance in a trust for their benefit until they are old enough to manage the funds responsibly.
Your estate plan, or lack thereof, cannot be corrected after you die. If you find yourself struggling with your child’s choice of spouse, you would benefit from a conversation with a lawyer who specializes in estate planning. There may be a way to avoid or minimize conflict with a problematic in-law and maximize your child’s access to the inheritance.
When you love someone with dementia, you lose the same person twice.
As defined by the Mayo Clinic, Dementia is a group of symptoms that affect memory, thinking, and social abilities. Several different diseases cause dementia Alzheimer’s is one of the most common and well-known forms of dementia.
At Rebecca Mason Law, we counsel many clients through the heartbreaking process of losing a loved one to dementia. It is one of the most difficult things a family can experience.
The early stages are some of the hardest as you watch your loved one’s memory fade in and out. In the beginning, many struggle with knowing their memory is fading and that there is nothing they can do to stop it. Some become belligerent and violent. While others withdraw.
As dementia progresses, the brain slowly dies. Many come to a point where they cannot recognize their loved ones.
My grandma suffered from dementia. Near the end of her life, she had no idea who I was — but she could recite word for word the commencement speech she gave to her 8th grade class nearly 80 years prior. She would ask me why her grandchildren never visited her.
It is hard. There is no fix and no easy way to get through Dementia. You grieve when they forget who you are. You grieve every time they don’t remember your face, every time you have to reintroduce yourself, every time have a conversation with your loved one about yourself as if you are not you. And again when they physically die.
For the first time in 15yrs, we are not celebrating our independence by walking in the Racine 4th of July parade. We are all sad about this and it underscores the uncertainty of 2020.
As we consider Independence Day 2020, a lesson we can learn from this year is that the future is uncertain. How do we protect ourselves, our family, and our businesses from a sudden loss of autonomy? This year in particular, many of us have had to face this type of concern head on. Is there a way to be more prepared? A durable power of attorney for can go a long way to help.
The durable power of attorney allows you to name someone who can make decisions for you if are unable. With the durable power of attorney for finances & property, your designated decision maker will have the authority to act on matters related to your finances and property on your behalf. For example, your agent will be able to pay your bills, manage your income and handle your affairs in the way you would want if you could not act independently. For your health care power of attorney, your agent has the authority to work with your medical team to make decisions about your health care.
Through your estate plan, your chosen decision maker will be able to fulfill your wishes if you cannot act for yourself.
What makes a power of attorney durable?
When you are working with Rebecca Mason to create your estate plan, is durability important? The durability provision means that it is able to be used in the event of your incapacity. This is a critical aspect to your estate plan. While a power of attorney is a vital tool in all respects, you will need it most in the event you cannot make your own decisions.
Power of attorney documents are just one facet of your comprehensive Wisconsin estate plan.
Father’s day, like many holidays, can invoke strong emotion. We work with many families who have unresolved issues when a loved one dies. It can be very difficult for loved ones to find closure in these situations.
Some unresolved issues are so deep and hurtful that they cannot be resolved.
A few years ago, my father posted on Facebook that he tripped and fell while on a walk and ended up having to go to the ER. Although we were Facebook friends, we had not talked in years. He was living in Washington DC and remarried – I had only met his wife once. He had never met his grandchildren.
As I read my father’s post, I thought about the families I counseled in my law firm conference room as they struggled through the death of an estranged family member. Given that a minor fall landed him in the hospital, I worried we might not have much time left. I decided I did not want that for me and, more importantly, my children.
I reached out to him and extended an invitation. They came to Racine for a visit with us almost immediately! My kids were excited to meet them and welcomed them with open arms. Before the pandemic, they visited us here in southeast Wisconsin regularly, and we all flew out to visit them a few times.
It has been wonderful getting to know each other as adults and watching them with their grandchildren.
I know it is not always possible. But, for me, letting go of the past and accepting the present has brought me such peace and allowed me and my children to get to know two amazing people.
Happy Father’s Day, dad. And happy Father’s Day to all the dads, grandpas, and father figures out there!
Wisconsin estate planning documents need to be properly witnessed. Wisconsin law requires witnesses to be in the “conscious presence” of the person signing a will. That has been interpreted to mean that witnesses must be present with the signer. Not observe the signing remotely through video conferencing. For a document to be notarized, the person must “appear before” the notary. This, too, has been interpreted to mean that a document must be notarized in person.
Many states allow remote witnessing and notarizing of estate planning documents. However Wisconsin does not currently.
Remote witnessing and notarizations would be helpful in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are being careful to limit in-person interactions. However, information shared by social media and “do it yourself” estate planning websites, can be miss-leading as states have different rules. There is a high risk that people are getting bad information about how to properly execute their estate plan. Even the local newspaper recently printed misinformation that courts will accept a will without witnesses – which just isn’t true.
It is critical to work with a legal professional in the state where you reside. A Wisconsin resident could read this AARP article or the Journal Times article pictured above and use one of these do-it-yourself legal website or a template. As a result, the documents would not be valid without an appropriate witness/notary (Even with a remote witness).
With all this in mind, The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section filed an emergency request for a temporary order that would permit remote witnessing of certain estate planning documents in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the Court declined to issue an emergency ruling.
This is disappointing, but attorneys across Wisconsin will persist.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic first appeared in Wisconsin two months ago, lawyers across the state have been working hard to make sure our clients can safely execute their estate planning documents.
Due to safety concerns for our clients, Rebecca Mason Law is meeting by phone, FaceTime, and even Zoom. We share drafts electronically. We are conducting signings curbside outside our firm – or standing by the curb outside your home and observe you while you sign from the comfort of your own front porch.