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Estate Plans/Will Reviews? When should I review my plan?


How often should you review your estate planning?  If you have a complex estate, you should review your plan on a biannual basis but it is always a good idea to review your plan after any life changing event occurs. Here is a quick reference on times you should definitely review and revise your plans:

  1. Marriage. It is very important to update estate planning documents to modify any name changes and to include your new spouse.  This includes your will, powers of attorneys and all beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement plans.
  • The birth or adoption of a child. In the case of a birth or adoption, you will want to create or update your will.  You will need to include the child and likely to name a guardian of both the child and the estate if you should pass. The birth of grandchildren is also a time to review your wishes.  If one of your children should pass away, do you want your remaining children to split your estate or do you want the grandchild to get their parents’ portion?
  • Divorce. If you divorce, you will want to update your will and/or estate plan as soon as possible to remove your ex-spouse.
  • When a child or grandchild turns 18 years old. Your child or even a grandchild turning 18 might spark some changes to your will and/or estate plan. Upon turning 18, a child is now able to act as a power of attorney.  It might also be a good idea to think about a will and/or estate planning documents for the now legal adult child or grandchild.  Your adult child should have estate planning documents even if they don’t have an estate.  Power of Attorneys are very important if something like a car accident were to occur so that a parent can continue making choices for their child without Court intervention.
  • Changes in relationships. It’s easy for relationships with family and friends to change over time. Review your beneficiaries, representatives, guardians, trustees or executors to see if any relationships have changed or if the person listed is still capable of acting in such a role.
  • Serious Illness, death or disability of a spouse or child. In the case of disability or a long-term illness of your spouse or child, you will want to meet with an attorney to ensure that your estate plan properly names and protects you and your family.
  • Estate value changes.  Your estate has had a significant change in value either up or down!
  • Retirement.   You plan on retiring in the next few years.
  • Three to five years has passed since you last updated your documents. Even if you have a simple plan and you think that nothing has changed, we recommend having our estate planning attorneys review your documents every few years to ensure that not only are your documents in order but that nothing has dramatically changed in the law that could negatively affect your family’s future.

Let Petit & Dommershausen help you.  We have three convenient locations in Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay.  Serving all of Northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette and Fond du Lac counties.

Contact Petit & Dommershausen today at 920-739-9900 for all your estate planning needs!

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Legal Podcast Review with Attorney LaFond

We’ve all listened to the podcast Serial at this point (if you haven’t do you live under a rock?), so what’s next on your morning/evening commute? For all you true crime lovers out there, here are a few reviews of some of my favorites. Comment on this post today with your recommendations for me as I drive through Wisconsin defending the rights of the accused.

My Favorite Murder
If you enjoy comedic relief AND true crime, this is the podcast for you. Karen and Georgia spend each episode discussing a murder of their choice (usually for no rhyme or reason). The discussions are filled with their blatant opinions and sometimes too inappropriate commentary but there won’t be an episode where you aren’t laughing uncontrollably and/or gasping in horror and disbelief. Karen and Georgia are so entertaining that they have spent the last couple years touring the world doing live shows. They are coming to Milwaukee in May for two shows, and sorry, they were both sold out in seconds so you’ll have to get your fix from your favorite podcast app. But seriously check it out. This podcast is one of a kind!

Q: Is this REALLY a true crime podcast or is this just a comedy podcast with a true crime twist?

A: Well, yes it’s a true crime podcast in a sense that the hosts discuss real cases, but no in a sense that they actually know what they are talking about. Karen and Georgia make a point to tell the listeners that they don’t do a lot of research and don’t have any background in the field. In fact Karen is actually a comedian so that explains why this podcast often gets categorized that way. This podcast also doesn’t explore the court system and what happens to cases once they get there so if that’s what you are looking for try one of my other recommendations.

In the Dark
So far there are two seasons of this podcast and I really hope that there will be more. APM reports presents two separate cases that have brought on questions by many. The first season explores police and investigative errors that led to a case being unsolved for 27 years. The second season explores the same topics, but brings it into the court system to try and unpack how one defendant could be subjected to 7 trials and 6 reversals on appeal over a 20 year period. Both seasons present serious social and political issues that impact how our criminal justice system functions (or doesn’t function). Stay tuned for upcoming additions to season 2 as the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case of Curtis Flowers (subject of season 2) to determine whether or not the prosecutor racially discriminated in jury selection; thus depriving Mr. Flowers of his constitutional right to fair trial.

Q: Is this podcast a genuine representation of the criminal justice system?

A: Yes. A lot of research and work goes into each one of these episodes. The host is an investigative journalist and she has a whole team of researchers and investigators that assist in the behind the scenes work. They even conduct studies through the podcast to further their knowledge. If you are looking for a true and accurate representation of how a case moves through the system from start to finish, this is a podcast to add to your queue.

Sword & Scale
This podcast came out my first year as a lawyer, so as I was driving, representing clients in courts across the state, I downloaded a few episodes at the recommendation of a colleague just to see what it was all about. She warned me to only listen if I had thick skin—which is essentially a warning that the host Mike gives in nearly every episode. Sword & Scale has covered some of the most interesting and shocking criminal masterminds and cases that I had ever heard of. And what makes Sword & Scale stand out from some of the other similar podcasts is the amount of “real” case material that is actually used. Sword & Scale plays the 911 calls, the interrogation of the suspects, and the follow up interviews with witnesses that you are dying to hear. Each episode is carefully laid out and prepared. To this day it is the one podcast that I download the latest episode of the very second it comes out. Sword & Scale offers early access and supplemental episodes to patreon supporters but if you have student loans like I do, you’ll have to wait the two weeks and avoid the online spoilers!

Q: I hate how true crime podcasts seem to focus on the perpetrators, does this podcast discuss the victims at all?

A: Yes. Each episode is different in format; there will be episodes that focus on a perpetrator or suspect but there are also episodes that are dedicated to the victims of the heinous crimes described. Several episodes include interviews with family members of victims. Sword and Scale is a nice balance for true crime lovers who often feel that a victim’s story is never told or is even forgotten.

Interested in learning more about the Law? Attorney Britteny LaFond at Petit & Dommershausen, SC, is routinely out in the Northeast Wisconsin community serving her clients and staying connected. Contact the firm today to learn more.

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Relocating with a Child after a Divorce or Paternity Judgment

The State of Wisconsin has recently updated its laws and procedures regarding how a parent is to obtain a court’s approval to relocate with a child that is subject to an order granting periods of physical placement to both parents, as well as the procedures that a parent opposing such a move will have to follow. The new procedures are outlined in Wisconsin Statutes Section 767.481, and important features of the new law include:

-A moving parent must now seek court approval by filing a motion to move a child more than 100 miles from the other parent, rather than 150 miles as the law had been previously written (unless the parents already live more than 100 miles apart). This distance threshold applies whether or not the moving parent is moving out of state with the child.

-A parent objecting to a proposed move must file and serve, at least 5 days in advance of the initial hearing, an objection to the proposal and any alternate proposal that he or she may have.

-The court will schedule an initial hearing within 30 days after the motion has been filed. If a parent is objecting to the proposed move, the parents will likely be referred to mediation, and a guardian ad litem will be appointed by the court to conduct an investigation if the parents still cannot agree after the mediation process. A final hearing on the matter will then be held within 60 days, and the court may issue a temporary order to allow a child to be moved pending the final hearing if the court determines that the move is in a child’s best interest.

If you have questions regarding placement and child custody, please call Petit & Dommershausen at (920) 739-9900 for a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney.

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Domestic Enhancers: Explanation & Consequences

As a local criminal defense attorney, this is by far the most common question I get: why am I being charged with domestic abuse for a verbal argument with my significant other? I don’t blame anyone for asking this question because it is confusing, so I’ll clear it up for you today.

In Wisconsin, any offense committed against a present or former spouse, against an adult with whom the person resides with presently or formerly, or against an adult with whom the person has a child in common, is by definition a domestic abuse incident. Wis. Stat. 968.075.

Let’s break that down a little bit with an example or two. Bob divorced his wife Lisa in 2002. They run into each other at Country USA in 2016 and a fight ensues. Even though Bob and Lisa are no longer in a “domestic” relationship by common definition, they still fall within the definition under Wisconsin statutes. As a result, both Bob and Lisa are charged with Domestic Battery. A second example: Sue and Stan share custody of their 3 year old son. During a drop off at a public park, Sue yells at Stan in a profane manner. Guests of the park are offended and contact the authorities. Sue is charged with Domestic Disorderly Conduct. Because Sue and Stan share a child, they have a domestic relationship.

Now that we understand what qualifies as domestic abuse in Wisconsin, let’s talk about the consequences of this qualification. There are two primary consequences of the domestic abuse enhancer in Wisconsin. First is that in the event of a conviction, there’s a mandatory domestic abuse surcharge the individual will be required to pay. Presently the surcharge is $100 for each domestic offense but as we all know these costs can change at any time. The second primary consequence is that if an individual has two separate prior domestic offenses, they are considered a domestic abuse repeater for the third (and all subsequent offenses). Why this matters is because the enhancer for a domestic repeater actually changes the maximum penalties for the offense and, if the offense in question is only a misdemeanor, if the person is a domestic abuse repeater the status changes from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Do you need legal assistance with a domestic offense? Attorney Britteny LaFond and the rest of the legal team at Petit & Dommershausen is here to help. Call 920-739-9900 for your confidential consultation.

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Paternity Law In Wisconsin

DECLARATION OF PATERNAL INTEREST

Don’t let your parental rights be terminated without your knowledge!!

Do you believe someone you slept with could be carrying your child?  If so, do you want to be notified if the mom is making the important decision to give the child up for adoption? If the answer is yes, you must file a declaration of paternal interest which can be found at: https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/files/forms/pdf/0019a.pdf

This declaration can be filed as soon as you suspect a child could have been conceived but it must be filed either 1) before the birth of the child  2) within 14 days after the birth of the child or 3) if the possible father receives notice under Wisconsin Statute 48.42(1g)(b) that the mother of a child under the age of one is seeking to voluntarily terminate her parental rights and has identified him as the father. 

If it is not filed, any potential father’s rights could be terminated and the child could be placed for adoption with only a tiny notice published in a local paper!

This filing is confidential and can only be used by children’s court proceedings.

Filing a declaration of paternal interest does not establish parental rights to a child. The potential father will need to take further action to establish and protect his rights and responsibilities as a father!!

Need help?? Contact Petit & Dommershausen today at 920-739-9900!

With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay. We serve all of Northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette and Fond du Lac counties.

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Grandparents Rights

Grandparent Rights in Wisconsin

Most states allow at least some form of grandparent visitation, after a determination as to whether scuh visitation is in the best interests of the child. This inquiry can vary vastly from county to county and Judge to Judge. At Petit & Dommershausen, we guide you thru the process to get grandparents a great outcome.  Learn more about Grandparent’s Rights below.

Grandparent Visitation

Parents have fundamental rights to raise their children as they see fit, as long as the children’s basic emotional and physical needs are being met. However, in certain circumstances, Wisconsin law allows grandparents to have reasonable visitation with a grandchild, even if it’s against the parent’s wishes.

A grandparent must file a petition requesting visitation with the court. A judge will schedule a hearing to review the circumstances of the case and allow the child’s parents to respond.

All of the following factors must be present for a judge to grant grandparent visitation:

• the child’s parents are not married, or were married but have subsequently divorced, separated or one parent is deceased
• the child isn’t adopted (to non-family members)
• the grandparent has maintained a relationship with the child, or has attempted to maintain a relationship but was prevented by the parent
• the grandparent is unlikely to act counter to the parent’s decisions regarding the child’s emotional physical, educational or spiritual welfare, and
• that grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests. Most of the time a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed to advise the Judge as to what they think is in the best interests of the child.
Wisconsin courts require all the above elements to be met for grandparent visitation to occur. Grandparent visitation is almost always granted in cases where grandparents have had a strong relationship with the child and death or divorce has disrupted the child’s nuclear family unit.
The Court will then determine a reasonable amount of visitation. What constitutes “reasonable visitation” will depend on the unique circumstances of your case.

When Can Grandparents Get Guardianship of a Grandchild?

In some cases, a grandparent may be able to obtain guardianship over a child’s natural parent when it’s necessary to protect the child’s safety or well-being and the parents are unfit to meet the child’s needs.

A court may only award guardianship to a child’s grandparent if the following are true:

• granting guardianship to the grandparent would serve the child’s best interests, and
• the parent is unfit or unable to adequately care for the child, or there are other compelling reasons for awarding guardianship to a grandparent.

The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Petit & Dommershausen, S.C. can help you thru this difficult process. Call Attorney Tajara Dommershausen today to learn more about your rights and get the help you need.

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Back to School Tips for Divorcing Parents

As the school year begins again, co-parenting issues often come to a boiling point.  Here are some tips to try and co-parent in a more effective and efficient manner in the days ahead. Otherwise, you and your ex will be in and out of court asking the court to order solutions which cause your child will suffer feeling the stress from disagreeing parents. The goal is making school go as smoothly as possible for your child.

  1. Use a shared calendar. It can be a google calendar, through Our Family Wizardor any other calendar that works for you. Through the shared calendar you can share information about extracurricular activities and school project deadlines. If you do not have the same weekdays each week you can mark when sneakers are needed for gym class and what day their library book needs to be returned.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the electronic communication options with the school. Most school districts around here have online portals with your child’s information. Try to get two separate logins. If only one login is allowed, share the password with the other parent so you both can receive the information directly. It is better to have equal access than to be responsible for communicating the information directly. This way each parent is responsible for getting their own information and cannot accuse you of withholding information.
  3. Let the teacher know both parents’ email addresses. Ask them to email both of you when sending out announcements or emails about any concerns they have about your child. Copy the other parent on your communications back to the teacher.
  4. Prepare your child’s teacher. Before the first day of school, and to minimize confusion and uncomfortable remarks, inform your child’s teachers of their family situation. Give them an overview of the child’s routines—who’ll be dropping them off and picking them up on which days, and where they’ll be staying each night. Giving teachers this information up front not only provides them with some context for any emotional issues that may come up, but it also allows them to plan ahead. Perhaps they’ll proceed with more sensitivity when it comes to those “My Family” projects that can sometimes be painful for kids of divorce.
  5. Let the other parent know when your child is home sick and whether any make-up work needs to be coordinated.
  6. Try to attend parent-teacher conferences together. While sometimes this is not possible because the parents cannot get along well enough to be in the same room and the conference will not be productive, if you can, attend the conference together so that both parents can be on the same page and can hear the teacher’s response to each of the parent’s concerns.
  7. Discuss school projects and who is going to take the lead on what part of the project. Lack of coordination puts stress on the child (and each parent’s household). The child suffers the most in this situation.
  8. Be proactive. If you see a slip in grades or any other changes in your child that you think may be associated with the situation at home, talk to the school guidance counselor and consider counseling for the child and/or co-parenting counseling for the parents.
  9. Take your past issues out of equation. This is not about you, it is about your child and their successful school year.

Need help with your custody and placement issues?  Contact Petit & Dommershausen today 920-739-9900! With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay we serve all of Northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette and Fond du Lac counties.

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Understand a Misdemeanor Charge in Wisconsin

MISDEMEANOR IN WISCONSIN

In Wisconsin, a misdemeanor is a crime that can be punished by a year or less in jail – unlike a felony, a crime that can be punished by a year or more in prison. Most Wisconsin misdemeanors are Class A, B, or C misdemeanors.

Class C Misdemeanors are the least serious crimes.  A person convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, without more, can be sentenced to up to 30 days in a county jail, a fine up $500, or some combination of the two.

Class B Misdemeanors are more serious.  A person convicted of a Class B Misdemeanor, without more, can be sentenced to up to 90 days in a county jail, a fine up to $1,000, or some combination of the two.

Class A misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanors.  A person convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor can be sentenced to up to 9 months in a county jail, a fine up to $10,000, or some combination of the two.

 

A judge must consider anyone convicted of a misdemeanor in Wisconsin for probation instead of or in addition to time in jail.  Many people convicted of misdemeanors never actually have to go to jail at all – but probation comes with many restrictions on the person’s behavior while it lasts.

 

An experienced misdemeanor defense attorney can help defend you at a trial – for instance, if you did not commit the misdemeanor the prosecutor accused you of committing.   Sometimes a misdemeanor defense attorney can even get your prosecution deferred so you don’t get convicted of anything at all.  A criminal defense attorney can also help you work out a deal with the prosecutor if you are willing to plead guilty.  Last, if a judge or jury convicts you of a misdemeanor, a criminal defense attorney can represent you at sentencing for a misdemeanor, including by explaining to the judge why you should get a shorter sentence, permission to serve your sentence in another county, probation instead of jail, or a fine instead of probation.

 

Criminal defense attorneys at Petit & Dommershausen defend people accused of misdemeanors every day.  Our criminal defense attorneys practice in Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac, Calumet, Shawano, Waupaca, and Waushara Counties, and sometimes other counties too. Contact us today.

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WHAT HAPPENS TO DEBTS AFTER A LOVED ONE DIES?

Debts After Passing Away

When a loved one dies, either the personal representative or an heir is likely going to have to figure out the finances, including any financial obligations. All of their assets (i.e., bank accounts, businesses, cars, real estate, etc.) are all lumped together into what is called an estate. If the estate is over $50,000, it will go through a court proceeding called probate. Certain assets may not be included in the estate-life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts.

Through the probate process, the value of the estate will be determined in greater detail and debts will need to be dealt with before anything is given to heirs.

  1. Secured debts

Certain debts, like mortgages and car loans, do not vanish. They are secured by something of value (i.e., the house or the car). If that mortgage is not paid, the lender can foreclose on the home and sell it to repay the debt. If car loans are not paid, the car can be repossessed and also sold to repay the debt. These types of creditors are first in line to get part of the estate which secures that debt.

  1. Unsecured debt

Credit card companies and other creditors like them are the next people in line. These non-secure debts are not necessarily entirely wiped out. These companies can file a claim against the estate. The person who is handling the estate will be required to send notice to creditors so that they can file a claim. If they do not file a claim, they get nothing; however, if they do, the Court will usually use that money to pay the debt.

  1. Student loans.

If a student loan is a federal loan, that will be wiped out. However, that is not true of most private student loans. Also, if there is a co-signer, that co-signer could end up being on the hook for that loan and the debt of a borrower may trigger a default, which means that the co-signer would have to pay off the loan immediately. If there isn’t a co-signer, the student loan company can file a claim against the estate.

Anything that is left over would likely go to the estate and eventually the heirs.

As Wisconsin is a community property state, your spouse may be responsible for any debts you incurred during the marriage. This is particularly true if it is a joint debt or you co-signed on any of the loans. Planning ahead is very important so that a burden isn’t left for someone else.

Please contact Petit & Dommershausen’s estate planning department so that we can help make sure that your assets pass to your heirs as smoothly as possible.

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WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER MEDIATING YOUR DIVORCE

Divorce Mediation

Divorce can be emotionally, financially, and physically stressful. Divorce mediation is a way to reduce stress. While protracted litigation is necessary in some cases, for many people, mediation is an effective alternative that allows you to reach an agreement in the least stressful way. In a divorce mediation, a neutral mediator assists a divorcing couple in arriving at a mutually acceptable agreement. While emphasizing cooperative problem solving, it is non-adversarial and gives you more control over the issues that matter most to you, such as child custody, placement and division of assets. Many people find that mediation helps the parties maintain cooperation both during and after the divorce. The following are some of the benefits to mediation:

  1. You control the results. You and your spouse decide the terms of your agreement – not the Court, not divorce attorneys, and not a Guardian ad Litem. Important decisions about your children, your finances, and your future are not in the hands of anyone but you.
  1. Non-adversarial. Mediation focuses on creative and cooperative problem solving and tries to address everyone’s needs. We try to resolve any outstanding issues by communicating and discussing instead of arguing. This allows you to work as a team to have a stronger possibility of reaching a mutually satisfying agreement.
  1. There is greater confidentiality involved. All communications and documents associated with the mediation process are confidential, as are all discussions had with the mediators. This is not true of litigation as anything that is discussed is fair game in the courtroom.
  1. Your children are more protected from conflict. This allows your children not to be exposed to tension, additional stress and other signs of the continuing conflict between their parents. This also allows them not to be interviewed by a Guardian ad Litem and/or the custody study evaluators. Divorce mediators help you focus on your children’s needs as you try to reach a custody and placement agreement.
  1. Get divorced faster. Instead of having to wait for hearing dates, depositions and the discovery process, many parties are able to resolve their case more efficiently and thus get divorced faster. This way, you are able to move on to the next chapter of your life more quickly.
  1. Post-divorce communication is better. During the mediation process, the parties are required to talk as they work towards a consensus on important issues. This ability to talk through issues and cooperate will have a positive long-term impact on your future co-parenting skills, which obviously benefits your children.

If you think that you and your spouse could possibly, with the help of a third-party mediator, work through your issues, mediation could be the right strategy for you. The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Petit & Dommershausen can help you address the ending of your marriage in a supportive, non-confrontational environment. Please call Attorney Tajara Dommershausen 920-739-9900, today to learn more about the divorce mediation process.  You can learn more at pdlawoffice.com