Answers to these FAQs are NOT LEGAL ADVICE. You should not rely on them to address your personal legal issues. Legal advice is purchased and offered only under a written agreement with me (Tyson) for legal services. Thanks for your understanding.
Last Will and Testament
What's involved in making a will?
Completing your will is usually pretty simple. You provide me with information about yourself, your family, and your preferences, and then (usually) you meet with me and two witnesses a few days later to sign the document. Beyond staying in touch, your primary job is to decide who you want to take charge of your affairs when you have passed away and who gets what from your estate, and when. The hardest work is on my end, which is why you pay me!
How do I pick my executor?
Find someone who is (1) trustworthy, (2) in touch with your family and personal beliefs, (3) savvy with finances and legal stuff, (4) available (in all relevant senses) when your estate needs help, and (5) willing to do some heavy lifting when necessary. The more these descriptions match your choice, the better. Pick an alternate if possible. (As an aside, Wisconsin law calls the executor of an estate the “personal representative.”)
Do I have to change my will if my circumstances change?
Maybe. While the plans I help design are inherently flexible, change is not always predictable, and no plan can easily accommodate every circumstance. For these reasons, consider reviewing your plan and taking stock of your personal situation at least every 3 to 5 years. Has a close family member recently died? Been born or adopted? Have you or a close relative recently been married or divorced? Has anyone run afoul of a really bad habit (think credit card debit and opioids)? Any health changes? All these issues bear on the cogency and wisdom of your estate plan. Finally — and this more the province your lawyer — have laws changed in ways which might affect how your existing plan will play out? If yes, or if you are unsure, consult an experienced estate planning attorney. It’s worthwhile, believe me.
Can I make a small change on my own, without seeing a lawyer?
Changing a last will and testament does not require the oversight or blessing of an attorney; technically, you can do this for yourself. But do you know how? Can you avoid the mistakes which may render your will expensive to enforce, or even unenforceable? If you do decide to make a minor change for yourself, beware of simply jotting in the change with a reliable ballpoint. Handwritten changes in the form of margin notes may ultimately cast doubt on your intentions and seriously jeopardize what might otherwise have been an easy, low-cost settlement.
Why don't you have an office?
Without a bricks-and-mortar office, I can keep costs low without compromising quality. Good planning doesn’t need a shingle or polished floor. In fact, these fixed expenses must be passed to clients as higher fees. At the same time, the technology allowing faster and more mobile service is getting cheaper and more common every day. By investing in my mobility and accessibility, I can be highly responsive to clients’ changing needs, meeting them when and where they find convenient. Without an office, I can be where I’m needed.
How much do your services cost?
Your cost depends on what I do for you. I charge a fixed fee for drafting documents but an hourly fee for probate services and for advice without purchase of documentation. Please see my pricing page
What if I'm dissatisfied with your services?
Hopefully this never happens. But if it does, be assured I’ll work long hours to resolve the problem, making you and your satisfaction my top priority. Because I neither expect nor accept advance fees, you need not worry about turning over money I haven’t earned.
Your firm is new. What if I need more help later and you've moved on? Do I have to start over?
You may need to start over, but not because I’ve moved on. If I’m not in practice and you need more help, I will gladly connect you with another reliable attorney who won’t charge for what you could have avoided but for my departure.
Who pays for probate?
Probate can get expensive, so it’s important to understand how to pay for it. Generally, the estate in probate will pay its own way. Deficit estates (the ones which can’t pay all the bills) may be the exception, although payment of critical expenses like attorney fees and funeral costs take priority by law. Sometimes an estate will have sufficient assets but little cash, necessitating a loan to the estate, typically by the Personal Representative or other beneficiary, until cash can be raised through the sale of assets. These loans vary in their terms but are generally repayable within a year or two. No final distribution of assets ought to be made until the estate has paid for all its expenses and settled all allowable creditor claims.