If You Need a Great Attorney, This Is the Way to Go

Are you in need of a great Wisconsin attorney? If you are from Wisconsin and need a great attorney, Madison WI is the best way to go. The state of Wisconsin has few cities and Madison is your best bet if you are looking for a great attorney.

Whoever attorney you would hire, there is no guarantee that you will win the case. However, if you will hire an attorney from Madison, you will surely have higher chances of winning the case. This city is known for having some of the best attorneys in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

When you are in need of a great Wisconsin attorney, Madison WI is the best place for you to visit. Regardless of the kind of crime or charges that you are facing, you could surely find the best attorneys in this city. From insurance claims to DUI and from drug possessions to murder, the law firms in Madison have so much to offer.

As the home of many great attorneys in the Midwest, you would surely find a lot of good attorneys in Madison. Choosing may be a bit hard so here are some characteristics of attorneys that you may opt to compare when searching for an attorney in Madison.

First, you should look for their experiences. Look at their education background and the courts where they were trained. You should also look for their years of service. Some law firms claim to have decades of experience. Check if these years of experience are collective or not. Choosing an attorney with the highest years of experience may be a good option but not the sole basis of legal excellence. For instance, most old attorneys surely have more years of experience in trials but there are also new attorneys who could be aggressive and great in representing their clients. Knowing their backgrounds is definitely a must if you want to get the best attorney.

Second, you should also look for the specialties of the attorneys. There are some attorneys that could provide quality legal service to many fields but there are some who specialize in certain fields. For instance, there are some attorneys who specialize in insurance claims while others would be the great choice for DUI or drug possession. Most attorneys and law firms in Madison have websites nowadays and there are profiles of attorneys. It will be much easier for you to compare and choose the attorney who could provide the best legal guidance and service for you.

Third, you should also look for the satisfaction of the attorney’s previous clients. It is normal for most attorneys to lose some cases. However, great Madison attorneys must be able to reduce the charges or penalties for their losing client. This may include reducing the days to be spent in jail or reducing the monetary penalty.

Lastly, you should also consider the legal fee. There are many attorneys that ask for low fee but if you would want quality legal service and affordable rate offers from a Wisconsin attorney, Madison WI is the best way to go. When you need a Wisconsin attorney, Madison WI has the most professional, most aggressive and most guiding ones.

Three Lessons on Durable Powers of Attorney

Durable Powers of attorney are an essential ingredient in a complete estate plan, which allow for continued financial management in the event of incapacity. Under a durable power of attorney, an attorney in fact makes financial decisions on behalf of the principal. The attorney in fact can be given broad and sweeping powers. Conversely, powers granted by a durable power of attorney can be limited to particular assets or powers. Accordingly, the level of control given to the attorney in fact should reflect the particular requirements of the estate as well as the principal’s comfort with a broad grant of authority. In this article, the author teaches three lessons on effective execution and implementation of durable powers of attorney.  

First Lesson: Why would I Need One Now?

The legality of durable powers of attorney stems from the law of agency. Under agency law principals, an individual with capacity may give an agent powers-to contract, to represent the principal or to revoke or amend a trust, for instance. In the case of a non-durable power, the agency terminates upon the principal’s incapacity. Durable powers survive incapacity, but the principal must have capacity at the time of execution in order to effect a valid power.   Accordingly, executing a durable power of attorney for financial management should be done prior to incapacity.

Waiting until one becomes unable to coherently express one’s wishes with regards to financial management decisions is too late, and a court-appointed conservatorship may become necessary. What about the successor trustee designated in my trust, or the executor of my will? Would they be able to step in? Since the principal does not die at incapacity, only an attorney in fact designated under a properly executed power of attorney may step in to make financial management decisions. A last-minute durable power of attorney executed during incapacity would not survive a court challenge, however expensive or damaging the result.

Second Lesson: Consider making the Power Immediately Effective

Often, unwary estate planners will execute “springing durable powers of attorney,” which only become effective upon the incapacity of the principal. Incapacity is determined according to a test set out in the power, such as a determination made by a medical doctor or a court rendered decision. But who wants to go through the expense, difficulty, and uncertainty of initiating a legal procedure to determine incapacity? Isn’t one of the goals of estate planning to prevent unnecessary expense and delay? Moreover, doctors frequently hesitate to make determinations of incapacity because of liability they may face.  

In most cases, a better strategy would be to execute an immediately effective durable power of attorney, which gives an attorney in fact the power to make decisions on behalf of the principal without any finding of incapacity. Many are fearful of an immediately effective power of attorney, reasoning that no one should be given such power over their financial affairs unless they are totally incompetent. If they have such a lack of trust for the attorney in fact, why are they executing a power of attorney in the first place? One would think that even more trust would be required when the principal is incompetent and has little influence over the attorney in fact. Finally, simple measures can be taken to avoid disasters before incapacity. Consider sealing a copy of the durable power of attorney in an envelope labeled “do not open until my incapacity.” In addition to oral instructions, this can help to avoid the scenario of a run-away attorney in fact who uses the power of attorney to access financial accounts before incapacity.  

Third Lesson: What powers should the Attorney-in-Fact be given?

The powers given to an attorney in fact depend upon the principal’s desires and the particular concerns that stem from the types of assets held. The durable power of attorney should be coordinated with the will, trust and advance health care directive to ensure that they do not contradict each other. Namely, should the attorney in fact have the power to create trusts? To rescind or amend existing trusts? Should the attorney in fact have a power to make gifts to himself or to others? These powers can help ensure that preparation for long term care (medical) or tax planning can take place even after incapacity.   Before executing a power of attorney, individuals should be fully informed of the powers that they are granting, and the possible consequences of such sweeping grants of power. In all cases, it’s best to consult with an attorney who can advise on specific risks.

Conclusion

Durable Powers of Attorney are one of the five essential documents in estate planning discussed in this article series. Unlike a will or trust, which mostly deals with decisions that are made upon one’s death, the durable power of attorney deals with life-time financial management and estate planning questions. Individuals should be aware of the risk in waiting to execute the power of attorney; the hazards of “springing” powers; the range of powers that can be given to the attorney in fact; and the risks associated with a sweeping grant of authority to the attorney in fact.   —

This article is intended to provide general information about estate planning strategies and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney. Treasury regulations require a disclaimer that to the extent this article concerns tax matters, it is not intended to be used and cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law.

Defending Against Abuse of a Power of Attorney

Attorneys will advise you that you should have a power of attorney. A Power of Attorney is an important document that allows someone else to handle your affairs if you have difficulty or are unable to do so. With age and illness, a Power of Attorney often becomes necessary. Usually the person who is given the authority to act will do so with the best of intentions. What happens, however, if the person you trust misuses the Power of Attorney for personal gain or benefit? A Power of Attorney may seem like a simple document, but it can have far-reaching and unintended consequences. A Power of Attorney can be very tempting to the person who has it.

A Power of Attorney is a legal document by which a person (the “Principal”) gives someone else (the “Agent” or “Attorney-in-fact”) the authority to act on the Principal’s behalf. If the Principal becomes ill, incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle her financial affairs, or simply chooses to let someone else do it for her, the person or persons she designated in the Power of Attorney can pay bills, deal with banks, lawyers and other professionals, and do other things that are in the best interest of the Principal.

A Power of Attorney can be general, meaning that it gives the Attorney-in-fact the authority to do whatever the Principal might do for herself, or limited, meaning that it is limited in scope and/or time. For example, a Power of Attorney may be limited to one specified act or type of act, such as a limited Power of Attorney to attend a real estate closing and sign the closing documents on behalf of a buyer or seller, or it may be limited in time, such as a Power of Attorney that is effective only during the time that someone is out of the country on a trip. A Power of Attorney also may be durable, meaning that it takes effect upon its execution (or a specified date) and continues in effect even if the Principal becomes incapacitated, or springing, meaning that it only takes effect after the Principal is incapacitated (or some other definite future act or circumstance). The problem with a springing Power of Attorney is that it requires a judicial determination of incapacity for the power to take effect. This can take a considerable amount of time – plus the initiation of legal proceedings, the hiring by the Court of an independent person to interview and investigate the circumstances of the alleged incompetent, and a hearing in Court – often exactly at a most trying time when there is a need for prompt or immediate action.

In New Jersey, a Power of Attorney can include provisions with respect to making health care decisions, including the power to consent to any medical care, treatment, service or procedure. A health care power of attorney is different than a “Living Will”, which is a written statement of a person’s health care and medical wishes, but does not appoint another person to make health care decisions.

A Power of Attorney is a useful and powerful tool. Unfortunately, as with many things, something with a good purpose still can be used for improper purposes. A general Power of Attorney allows the Agent or Attorney-in-fact to do almost anything the Principal could or might do herself. As a result, it can be an invitation to abuse and self-dealing.

The victim of Power of Attorney abuse often may not be aware of what is happening, or even if she is may feel powerless to say or do anything because she is dependent on the abuser for care and companionship. The nature and extent of the abuse may not come to light until after the person has died and someone else is able to obtain access to her banking and other financial records.

Disputes can arise when the Agent or Attorney-in-fact has used the Power of Attorney to transfer the Principal’s assets to himself or his family members. This may be done as an estate planning technique, such as making gifts to take advantage of the annual exclusion from gift taxes. On the other hand, it may be done to deprive other family members of a share of the Principal’s assets that they otherwise might eventually inherit. For example, a person may wrongfully use a Power of Attorney to withdraw money from the Principal’s bank accounts and deposit the money in his or own bank account. We have seen this and been involved in litigation to get the money back.

Under New Jersey law, the traditional rule was that a power of attorney should not be construed to allow the Agent or Attorney-in-fact to give the Principal’s assets to himself or others without clear language in the power authorizing such gifts. See Manna v. Pirozzi, 44 N.J. Super. 227 (App. Div. 1957). In 2004 in New Jersey a law was passed stating that a Power of Attorney shall not be construed to authorize the Attorney-in-fact to gratuitously transfer property of the Principal to the Attorney-in-fact or any one else except to the extent that the Power of Attorney expressly and specifically so authorizes. N.J.S.A 46:2B-8.13a. If this happens, the Superior Court, upon application of any heir or other next friend of the Principal, may require the Attorney-in-fact to render an accounting (i.e. an explanation of when and for what the money was used) if there is doubt or concern whether the Attorney-in-fact has acted within the powers delegated by the Power of Attorney for the benefit of the Principal. N.J.S.A. 46:2B-8.13(b).

A Power of Attorney also may be attacked as having been procured by undue influence, or when the Principal already was incompetent and therefore legally unable to execute a Power of Attorney. This type of action is similar to a will contest in which a will is claimed to have been procured by undue influence, or in which it is claimed that the testator was of unsound mind and unable legally to make a will.