Thursday, August 17, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Home builder contracts should reflect your interests

home building contracts, contractors, real estate lawyer

Touring builders' model homes can be intoxicating. They're so flawless with very feature you've imagined into your dream home. Wynn at Law LLC knows the exhilaration because we've been on the same tours of spec properties. Before you rush into the builder's agreement – which undoubtedly will reflect their best interests first – here are some areas you want to make sure are developed to your liking in the contract.

·         The building: Permits are required. Labor has to be furnished. Maybe pieces are subcontracted out. Obviously materials and plans are parts of the construction. Make certain the contract specifies the work that needs to be executed from the lot up to the last closet hinge. Remember lien waivers, too… see our previous article on them.

·         The timeline: Disputes with builders usually heat up over the deadline. Your move-in date means the world to you and your lender. What matters to the builder is accommodating inspections (delays), weather (delays), employee issues (delays) and arrival of materials (delays). A firm contract specifies a start date, move-in date, and provisions for reasonable extensions.

·         The payment terms: Another potential source of disputes (delays) is the payment. Typically there is a down payment and payments at regular intervals. A clear contract specifies the dates, amounts, and the form of payment they'll accept as well as where they'll accept it.

·         The warranties: In a sale of an existing home, defects are identified outright. In a new home construction, builders instead offer a warranty. That warranty usually spells out what is NOT covered (exclusions) rather than what IS covered (inclusions). Wynn at Law LLC reviews the home warranty promise and helps you get the most of it.

If you make the decision to build, rather than buy, your dream home, hiring a real estate attorney will ensure a contract favors your family, not the developer, and protects your investment. Usually, a builder presents a standard contract for your approval. If the contract appears overly simple or unnecessarily complex, there’s an excellent chance that the contract does not serve your best interests. Don’t be afraid to let us negotiate! Your home is on the line.


*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  

Photo by Andrea De Martin, used with permission.
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Transfer on Death Deeds eliminate probate

transfer on death deed, estate planning

When any of Wynn at Law LLC's clients own real property in Wisconsin, we look at a Transfer on Death Deed (commonly called a TOD Deed or a TODD) to see if it is a suitable fit for their estate plan. It can sometimes wipe out the need to go to probate court, which is a time and cost saver.

As our earlier article pointed out, if you have $50,000 or more in probate assets, probate court comes into play when distributing assets. Probate assets are all assets NOT automatically transferred to another person when the owner passes. Life insurance proceeds, for example, skip probate because a beneficiary is identified. So, if assets can avoid probate, why not place a TODD on an asset like a vacation home to transfer it directly to beneficiaries, such as the kids?

The answer in some cases is that if you need to protect assets – for or from your children – you might not want to transfer them on your death. For the minor kids, you might want to transfer the asset to a trustee for their benefit until they're older. In the case of adult children who may have creditor problems or a looming divorce, you might again want a trustee instead of transferring the property to them directly. Otherwise, a TODD making assets 'unprobatable' is an alternative for every Wynn at Law LLC client because the property doesn't need to be owned free-and-clear. You can have a mortgage, a second mortgage, even a line of credit against the property and still use the TODD to pass it on… and skip probate.

Let's say you had a car and some bank assets totaling $49,995 and a $89,000 getaway cabin up north. All in, the assets would require probate, but if a TODD was placed on the cabin, the cabin passes to your heirs (they still get the debt if it was mortgaged, by the way) and the rest of the estate would avoid probate because it's under the $50,000 limit.

Your accountant, or your beneficiary’s, will point out that there may be tax benefits to this strategy as well, because the transfer isn't considered a 'gift' subject to gift tax. The TODD may also reduce or eliminate capital gains taxes if and when the property is sold by the beneficiary.

Even if you have the Transfer on Death Deed, you can still choose to sell a property while you're living: It's yours! The TODD designation does not give the beneficiary 'ownership' of the property while you're alive… if the document is drafted properly. Call an attorney.


*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  

Photo by Ekaterina Kondratova, used with permission.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Flipping real estate advice for buyers, sellers, and speculators

flip, flipping, real estate
Wynn at Law LLC has noticed a recent resurgence of real estate 'flipping.' Late-night cable and radio stations are again saturated with ads touting the wild income potential of acquiring and liquidating the same piece of property within the shortest possible time frame. Flipping is legal – as long as it's done on the up and up.
Before the housing collapse a decade ago, some curbs were put in place to deter flipping. The FHA sets the rules by which most lenders follow: Having 3.5 percent as a down payment for example. In 2005, the FHA required additional inspections and safeguards taken on mortgages applied for on properties that have been owned for less than 180 days, and outright forbidding the approval of mortgages on properties owned for less than 90 days. Those rules were relaxed in 2010 following the real estate market bust wiping out $7 trillion in property value.
More importantly, that lost value represented the largest investment loss for many families… and did not involve as many people flipping houses. With that in mind, most lenders still adhere to the 90-day guideline.
If you're buying a flipped home, there are still numerous loopholes and unregulated areas that an unethical or inattentive flipper can exploit when flipping a house. It still remains up to the buyer and his or her attorney to perform all the necessary due diligence before buying. If the property is to be purchased with an FHA-backed loan, a flipped home may require more time to purchase because of the additional documentation required of the seller.
If you're interested in flipping, avoid the late-night infomercials blaring about how you can flip a home without putting in a dime of your own. Banks have extremely tight restrictions to watch for fraud. It's best to have cash on hand for this highly speculative form of investment: Cash you're able to part with (and potentially not recoup) for at least 90 days. A quickly-flipped home requires documentation on renovations, as well as additional appraisals, to justify a much higher resale price if the deal involves an FHA-insured loan. The average flipping time from purchase to resale is just over 106 days, according to market monitor RealtyTrac. Know this as well: Some properties have to become rentals before the flipper is able to get from the market what he or she thinks is the 'value' of the property. Are you prepared, legally, to become a landlord?
In the case of flipping, it's the old adage at play whether you're buying a flipped home or flipping one yourself… If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Get an attorney.


*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  

Photo by Victor Zastolskiy, used with permission.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: The power of advanced directives

living will, POA, advanced directive

There are dozens of intersections in life that call for an attorney's insight. Wynn at Law LLC gladly steps in to advise clients who have reached those intersections, like bankruptcy or buying a home. One of the most emotionally taxing of the intersections is how to handle the decisions at the end of a life, whether it's sudden or the result of a long-term illness. Planning ahead, before you reach this inevitable intersection, can make the situation more bearable, or at least manageable.

In one of our earlier articles, we talked about the Last Will and Testament -- a crucial part of estate planning after someone passes. A Living Will is a legal document that sets out a person's healthcare wishes in the event they cannot articulate the wishes. A Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA) is a separate alternative. The Living Will has your instructions -- what you will and will not permit. The POA designates an 'agent' to make the decisions. Usually, the agent is a spouse, but can be a close friend. No matter who you choose, you have to let that agent know your wishes clearly.

The POA is even more powerful when it goes beyond healthcare decisions to include financial decisions as well. This Durable POA ensures the person making the healthcare calls has the money to pay for the procedures. The signer gets to choose how limited in scope the POA is: For example, it can be limited to using bank accounts only and not things like selling the house.

Where Wynn at Law LLC adds value with such a POA is that the document and our Firm can be – if needed – the go-between if things get charged up among family members or family and caregivers. Things like resuscitation, painkillers, tube feeding, and organ donation can be powderkeg issues when they're not backed up by a Living Will or a POA.

'Why would you create a Durable POA over creating a Living Will?' is a common question. The answer is simple: The POA agent can represent your thoughts on things for which you didn't foresee in drafting a Living Will. You can't plan for everything in writing in a Living Will, and the bills don't stop just because a person is hospitalized. When you and your family come upon this intersection in life, these estate planning tools help keep the focus on the care you would have chosen and nobody has to guess.

*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  

Photo by Viktor Levi, used with permission.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Flood damage and selling a property

flood, real estate, law, disclosure
The record-setting flooding we saw in Walworth, Racine, and Kenosha counties brings to mind an important disclosure topic for real estate transactions… but first, our thoughts and hearts at Wynn at Law, LLC go out to everyone impacted by the flooding. We hope things return to normal for all of you as quickly as possible.

In some of our earlier articles we’ve talked about real estate disclosures. Flood damage is one of those things that must be disclosed by the seller before the transaction. Specifically, the form asks if the property owner was ‘aware’ of ‘any’ past flooding. It’s difficult for anyone to not be ‘aware’ of the current flooding, the worst in history. The issue is the word ‘any.’ If a seller knew of flooding back in 2008, it has to be disclosed. If the sellers know the property flooded in 1973 – another historic flood event in our area – even if the homeowner didn’t live there, it has to be disclosed.

Past transactions on the real estate can identify flooding disclosures that happened before the current one.

Sellers should fully explain the circumstances behind any flooding damage and give as much accurate detail as possible. If it only happened once, say so. If it only happened in the record-smashing deluge we just went through, say so. Most importantly, in the disclosure, you can be very specific about the cleanup and repairs you made, as well as any steps you took to (hopefully) prevent the next massive downpour from causing the same damage this downpour created.

If a property was on the market before the rivers overflowed, the previous disclosure from before the flood might be inaccurate. In that case, the disclosure should be amended.

Both the buyer’s and seller’s attorney (and their real estate agents, too) have legal responsibilities related to the disclosure form. As fiduciaries, they are bound to advise their clients with entire openness. This requirement applies even if the seller just doesn’t want to disclose the current flooding because, ‘It was once in a lifetime and will never happen again and this will sabotage my sale or selling price.’

Does a buyer have to abort plans to buy a house just because it is or was ever in a flood? Of course not. Flooding in an extraordinary event like the one we’ve just seen does not mean the property will flood in every storm. If this storm tells us anything, it’s that even extraordinary records can fall.


*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  

Photo by Scott Stevens, used with permission.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: What exactly is ‘probate'?

probate, law, will

Wynn at Law LLC provides estate planning services – wills are one example. ‘Probate’ is a commonly used term in estate planning, especially these days when many clients have an estate worth more than $50,000. First, a bit on probate… then why $50,000 is an important number.

Probate is a court process whereby a will is legally ‘proven’ as the true last testament of the deceased. Essentially, the document is reviewed and validated. It came to be a more common process in the 16th century when greedy relatives (or non-relatives) began making phony claims on a dead person’s property. It comes from the same Latin roots as ‘probation.’ In probation, a person has to prove he can live within the law… in probate, a document has to be proven to be authentic and created within the law. Probation and probate have nothing else in common other than the root word, meaning proof.

The ruling of a probate court is the first step in resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property in a will. The court officially designates an executor to carry out the will’s instructions. Usually, the executor is named already when the person made out the will. If a will is contested, it happens in probate court.

What else happens in probate?

·         Creditors must be notified and legal notices published.

·         Homes/property/other possessions may have to be sold off to pay those debts, or otherwise make distributions evenly to the beneficiaries.

·         If there is a lawsuit over the death, or the deceased was party to pending lawsuits, those are noted and settled (if possible).

·         Estate taxes, gift taxes or inheritance taxes must be considered if the estate exceeds certain thresholds. Working with an estate planner can minimize these.

Some assets, like life insurance, are not counted because they are transferred directly to the beneficiaries and avoid probate. Death benefits are not included in an estate. Living Trusts – usually created to hold large assets – also are excluded from probate. Joint tenants (e.g. husband and wife) are allowed the joint property in a ‘right of survivorship’ if one dies, and this, too, avoids probate. Bank or investment accounts designated Transfer on Death (TOD) avoid probate as well. Real Estate can also be re-titled to avoid to probate, through tools such as a Transfer on Death Deed (TODD).

Here’s where the $50,000 comes into play. For estates in Wisconsin, after all those subtractions, the small estate threshold is $50,000. If the estate is valued below that and there is a will, probate is avoided. If there is no will, or if the estate is more than $50,000, probate is required. Most probate proceedings in Wisconsin aren’t very onerous. They are informal, with no squabbles between beneficiaries and few creditors. This is little more than an application to the court, followed by a summary judgment. A more formal proceeding requires the court to help distribute assets.

Wynn at Law LLC works with clients to secure their assets in a will or trusts to hold up in probate, or avoid it all together.

*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  
Photo by Marzky Ragma Jr., used with permission.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Medical bills a threat to financial independence

bankruptcy, medical bills, law

We are frequently seeing clients with ‘surprise’ medical bills when Wynn at Law,LLC counsels people through bankruptcy proceedings. Catastrophic medical bills are, unfortunately, one of the more common reasons for Chapter 7. Usually those clients didn’t have insurance coverage. The surprise medical bills to which this article refers are bills health insurance did not cover.
For example, you schedule an in-network procedure. You’re assured your insurance is covering the cost. But a few weeks later, an OUT-of-network bill arrives. The Jan. 2017 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) pointed out the problem. “The average anesthesiologist, emergency physician, pathologist, and radiologist charge more than four times what Medicare pays for similar services, often leaving privately insured consumers stuck with surprise medical bills that are much higher than they anticipated.”
Wisconsin, by the way, is among the states with the highest out-of-network markups according to the study.
As a patient, you don’t get to select the specialists like the anesthesiologists – who charge six times what insurance customarily pays based on the Medicare rate. But you do get the specialist’s invoice once your insurer carves out how much it will pay. States and Congress will sort out how customers avoid surprise billings. Maybe the solution is in Healthcare Reform… might be in state laws capping out-of-network charges… either way, it doesn’t change the immediate danger it puts your financial independence in.
Wynn at Law, LLC works with clients to try to avoid a bankruptcy filing if they can. Sometimes, it’s as simple as talking with the insurance company and the out-of-network provider about the crushing surprise bill.
Our team here at Wynn at Law LLC hope you had an enjoyable and safe Independence Day, and we want you to know that we’re by your side if your financial independence is put in jeopardy.

*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Photo by Sean Prior, used with permission.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Avoid these five small-business-crushing scams

small business, scam, law

Consumers aren’t the only victims of fraud. Wynn at Law, LLC hears about thousands of small business scams every year. A reward of our business is being able to work with entrepreneurs to get a business off and running (see related article). It doesn’t take much more than a single scam to derail that dream.

These days it’s fairly simple to pop up an official-looking website and professional – but fake – letterhead. Aside from the possible remuneration from and legal ramifications for the scammers, if they’re caught, once the business owner parts with the money for a scam, the money is gone.

Wisconsin’s Better Business Bureau notes, “We continually see various scams against small businesses and they seem to be increasing each year.” Some of the common small business scams reported to the BBB include:

1.       Phony invoices. Businesses receive fake invoices demanding payment for product or services they never ordered or received. Often, if you look closely, you’ll see fine print that identifies the bill as an actual solicitation for business. Generally, the amount is small enough to not raise a red flag. Make sure that the business billing you is a business with whom you are familiar. If not, question it. Wynn at Law LLC’s best small business clients limit the employees authorized to place orders or pay invoices.

2.       Directory scams. A problem that has plagued businesses large and small for decades involves deceptive sales for directories. Scammers call claiming they want to update the company’s information for an online directory… when they could be using the info to set up your business for identity theft. Otherwise, they may also try to upsell your listing in a directory that’s irrelevant to you or your customers, or doesn’t exist at all. Do not give out information about your business to anyone, unless you know for what the information will be used.

3.       Charity pitches. Even new businesses are routinely asked to donate funds to needy causes. While many requests are legitimate, every year small businesses become victims of fraudulent or deceptive charitable solicitation schemes. If the charity isn’t on, don’t give.

4.       Coupon books. Small business operators are often approached to participate in coupon book promotions. They seem like an inexpensive way to advertise your start-up. Problems occur if the promoters change the terms of the coupons to make them more attractive to buyers, when the books are oversold or when books are primarily distributed outside our area.

The fifth scam is among the most prolific – with terrifying outcomes. Internet & phone scams are a common nightmare. Watch out for ransomware, phishing, URL hustles, and spoofing scams. Scammers play on fear, convenience and lack of technical knowledge. Installing a protective software program like Norton or McAfee is a good start. A ‘firewall’ is recommended because it keeps your inside information inside… which includes your customers’ information. These days, you’re flirting with disaster by clicking on any links in unsolicited emails. One recent tip we heard was to shut off the preview pane on email inboxes to avoid emails a spam filter missed.

*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

 Photo by Brian Jackson, used with permission.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: ‘By-Owner’ real estate sellers need protection

FSBO, law, seller, real estate

One article earlier in the Wynn at Law, LLC archives mentioned our current real estate market cycle as being a seller’s market. There’s not much supply, and plenty of demand. Even in a hot seller’s market, there’s a temptation to increase the net price received for the property by offering it For Sale By Owner, or FSBO. (Real estate pros pronounce it ‘fizzboh.’)

Professional realtors have a home-selling advantage by having access to the realty company’s ad money, marketing and presentation resources, and buyers. However, the cost of that advantage is about six percent of the sale. So, FSBO sellers take over the job of the listing agent hoping to pocket that six percent. Many solo sellers do hire professionals to appraise, stage, photograph, video, drone, design flyers, and help them with the paperwork. Some don’t, and just bank on it selling easily because of the market.

Even a realtor-oriented source like Realty Times concedes that a part of a hot market will go FSBO. That website’s tip – and ours – for those sellers is to get a lawyer: “If you have opted to do a realtor-free FSBO transaction this is definitely the time to call an attorney.”

Every real estate transaction requires a deed. It has to be accurate. It has to be on-time. Anyone can access the records at the register of deeds office to pull that off. As much fun as that sounds, can he or she also assure that deed is legally sound? No. Realtor transactions always have an attorney: The title company and lenders insist upon it for that very reason.

Something else to consider: Another way a good attorney has your back when you go solo is by being your surrogate if negotiations get sticky.

Getting a lawyer involved early – as soon as you decide to go it alone – gives the owner an edge by being ready for closing. It provides the peace of mind that comes from having trained eyes look for other factors impacting the closing… before the closing. (See our previous article)


*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.


 Photo by Andy Dean, used with permission.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Form your company first

small business, operating agreement, law

Wynn at Law, LLC counsels many business owners when a legal situation arises. However, the best opportunity for us to help a business happens at the front end, somewhere between the inspiration to start the business and the day the first customer arrives. We totally get the excitement and energy every business owner exudes when the lightbulb burns bright to start an enterprise.
Forming a general partnership doesn't require any legal paperwork, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a written agreement amongst partners. The fact is, partnerships are formed every day without even intending to do so if you and another person start working together on a business.
Other business structures require a bit more organization. A tax adviser is going to help with the tax advantages or disadvantages of organizing a business as a partnership, a limited liability corporation (LLC), or incorporate as an S-corp or a C-corp. I’ve listed these in order from the easiest to form to the more complex.
An attorney is your lifeline to help you form the business within the state guidelines while protecting your best interests. As one of my clients puts it, ‘Everything is great when it’s great… when it goes south you’re glad to have an operating agreement.’
She has an LLC, which needs an operating agreement among the LLC members. It governs the business and the members' financial and managerial rights and roles. For a corporation, they’re also known as by-laws.
Remember what the two L’s stand for: Limited Liability. The operating agreement separates the owner’s or owners’ liability from the business’ liability. In short, you separate your business finances and personal finances, shielding the liabilities of each from the other. That’s a huge deal, especially if a suit is brought against the business – or, just as crushing – at some point you face personal bankruptcy, a frequent topic of Wynn at Law LLC’s articles. (See our archive, below right, please)

*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Photo by Andrew Lobov, used with permission.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Graduation, gifts, and financial aid

One of the great rites of spring is the new crew of young adults graduating high school and heading off to their futures. When I'm not at Wynn at Law, LLC, I teach at Marquette University Law School, so I may see a few of them further in their academic journeys.
For students, parents, and grandparents, the issue of affording tuition is best tackled a few years before high school graduation. If you're blessed with a full-ride scholarship or a generous gift from family, the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is a challenging hurdle you'll skip. For families planning to apply for financial aid, here are a two estate planning things to keep in mind long before commencement. 
Inheritance – Inherited income impacts a student’s eligibility for certain amounts of financial grants (which don't have to be repaid) and can affect the amount of loans (which have to be repaid after graduation). The FAFSA looks at finances of the entire family including the previous tax years income. Inheritance or gifted money, even to a parent, can affect the amount of financial aid for the student. 
Generally, one-time events, like inheritances, are handled by adjusting the income and counting the sum as an asset. The asset protection allowance (APA) allows a certain amount of money in retirement and non-retirement accounts, like an inheritance, to be spared assessment. But the federal government does expect parents to use a percentage of their unprotected assets to pay for their child’s education. The APA looks at the age of the oldest parent to determine the amount spared from assessment, assuming a younger parent has more time in the workforce before they'll need the assets.  
For parents, a way to legally lower the total amount of assets recorded on the FAFSA is to use any gift or inheritance to pay off credit card debt and auto loans because consumer debt is not considered when a student applies for financial aid. Paying off that high interest revolving debt in an important part of avoiding bankruptcy, a frequent topic at Wynn at Law, LLC. 
Savings and investments – We all hear about the tremendous burden of student loan debt new college grads have to repay. Saving up a ton of money on a summer, minimum wage job isn't likely to reduce the amount borrowed by much. However, keep in mind two things: 1) reducing any amount they'll have to borrow is a good thing, and 2) If they do save summer earnings, the government expects that 20 percent of it be used for college, so make sure savings are set aside for the teen. 
On that note, if parents wish to transfer to their accounts assets held in a child’s name its best to do so at least two years before the FAFSA. Moving assets like this could trigger other issues when it comes to both financial aid and taxes so be sure to contact professionals for seasoned money management advice. 
*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  
 Photo by Monkey Business, used with permission. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: When building a home, get lien waivers

A casual conversation with one of the many area realtors with whom Wynn at Law LLC works revealed an interesting take on the current real estate market in Walworth County. It’s a seller’s market right now (see related article). The demand outpaces the supply. That scenario is great for sellers, and it’s also great for those wishing to build rather than buy a home.

There are plenty of subdivisions in development in the area. Visitors from Chicagoland are usually struck by the amount of larger parcels available for country living, too. When you buy one and start to build – or if you’ve already broken ground – an important pair of words for your venture are: Lien Waiver.

A lien waiver is a legal document you have your contractors and subcontractors sign. It says – I’m paraphrasing – the contractor has been paid in full and releases any future claim on the property. What this document does is protect you from the contractor coming back to say such-and-such wasn’t paid for, or they neglected to invoice you for X component.

Wynn at Law LLC works with both, contractors and property owners, and we know most of our area contractors act entirely above-the-board when working on residential or commercial projects. Sometimes, legitimate expenses for which you weren’t invoiced get lost, forgotten, or delayed. Other times, a contractor might struggle financially and return to bill you. Protecting yourself and your property from unexpected claims once the work is complete is a wise peace-of-mind move.

Roofing. HVAC. Foundations. Plumbing. The dwelling itself.  Each of those are put together on your behalf by skilled tradesmen who are owed for their work. When a builder or contractor slaps a lien on the property because of amounts unpaid, they have been to a court clerk to get that lien. That doesn’t mean they are 100 percent entitled to the amount they claim to be owed, only that they have presented evidence that something wasn’t paid in total for the work they performed. A lien waiver signed as you deliver the final check on the final invoice protects you. This goes for home repairs, additions, remodels, as well as new construction.

There are waivers you can get during the project for work performed ‘to date’ as well… feel free to talk to us about those. And don’t be uncomfortable bringing up the subject of lien waivers: This is nothing new to any contractor. Be wary of one who won’t sign it.


*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.


 Photo by Leena Robinson, used with permission.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Minding summer’s attractive nuisances

Warmer weather has at last arrived. School’s winding down. That means more kids out and about. When a kid spots something in your yard and says, ‘Wow, that looks like fun,’ there is probably the potential for litigation. Wynn at Law LLC’s team isn’t the downer you’ll neglect to invite to your neighborhood party, but we do help clients stay clear of ‘attractive nuisance’ trouble. I’m talking about a pool. A trampoline. A ladder. A junked fridge. Kids are drawn like magnets to them and other adventures.

When adventure turns into trespass, misadventure and injury and it ends up in court, the property owner is under fire… not the trespasser.

Defining an attractive nuisance is lengthy but pretty cut-and-dried. It’s anything artificial on your property you know that can cause harm, especially to people too young or inexperienced to understand the risk, and you fail to take reasonable measures to eliminate the danger. It’s a mouthful. But so is defending your attractive nuisance in a court case.

Here’s a link to an interesting piece from the American Bar on home/property owner risks, and here are three common nuisances with some remedies that will help keep summer fun, safe, and litigation free.

·         Pools – even the small splash pools – are the leader in litigation. Property owners sometimes prevail in swimming pool injury cases, when they can show a trespassing child got into pool areas despite the owners' reasonable measures (high fences, locked gates) to keep them out.

·         Home construction projects draw in little boys like moths to a flame. Loose lumber scraps in the yard or dumpster are like gold to them. Newly dug foundation holes are an invite to treasure hunt. You should wall or fence off these areas well. Courts sometimes side with or exempt builders and construction companies in attractive nuisance cases: Their very businesses require them to maintain a temporarily hazard. However, the property owner should see the risk as incentive to minimize dangers to children.

·         Play structures are designed for kids, but are a risk to them as well. A fenced yard helps keep out younger or less experienced kids when it comes to skateboard jumps, trampolines, jungle gyms, and tree forts.

See the common theme here?  Fences. There’s an old saying that good fences make for good neighbors. The minor expense of a fence also makes good sense for protecting you from litigation.



*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

 Photo by Scott Stevens, used with permission.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Being neighborly while protecting your rights

When you buy a property, one of the things Wynn at Law, LLC looks at closely is whether or not the property has easements. The most common easement is the right to travel over your land, like you'd give to the power company. This is known as a 'right of way.' Property owners commonly grant easements for the placement of utility poles, utility/cable/phone trenches, water lines, or sewer lines. If an easement is in place, the legal title to the property still remains in your name as the owner. The person or company granted the easement owns the right of way.

Seems pretty cut and dried. Everything is, until it isn't. With the amount of lake property, hunting land, and farmable acreage in Walworth county, there sometimes is access given to neighbors to have right of way to the water, woods, or fields. This isn't the same right of way you give WE Energies. This usually is considered 'permissive use' – best kept in writing with an attorney – or can be an actual easement. An actual easement by a neighbor over your property can devalue the property you're buying… and if you're a seller, it could scare off buyers who don't want neighbors on their land the same way you allow.

Easements are difficult to reverse, and you probably wouldn’t want to reverse it when you're talking about a utility company easement. We look at them to give you a little foresight just in case there is a conflict down the road. Permissive use, on the other hand, can be reversed. You can just revoke the permission, again, in writing.

Wynn at Law, LLC helps you walk that fine line between being neighborly and exposing your property and yourself to potential litigation. Easements do open the landowner up to some liability and some trespass you may not foresee. It's best to work with a neighbor on an airtight agreement on what you're granting, for which use, and when. Putting it in writing with signatures from all parties is the best way to protect your largest investment even when the situation for which you grant permission seems harmless at first. Verbal agreements do not stand up in court.

*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Photo by John Panella, used with permission.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Attorney Shannon Wynn: Who needs estate planning? Everyone!

Wynn at Law, LLC clients sometimes have a shocked look when we bring up estate planning. “We're not dying!” “We're not old!” The best time to set in motion an estate plan is when you're neither old nor dying. No crystal ball or family tree can predict how or when you'll age, get injured, or pass on.
Estate planning is sometimes overlooked because a client doesn't think they have an estate. The fact is, everyone has an estate. Your estate is everything you own, including your car, home, other real estate, bank accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture, and personal possessions.

If you don't have a plan for these, the state has one for you

Wynn at Law, LLC works with you to ensure your wishes are carried out for whom you want to receive something of yours and when they are to receive it. Sounds like a will, right? A Last Will and Testament is part of the plan for when you pass on, but only scratches the surface of what estate planning entails. A thorough plan includes what happens if you're living, too.

You don't want the courts divvying up what's yours, but it will. Without an estate plan, the courts can choose how your assets are used to care for you through a conservatorship or guardianship. Those two, long, technical terms are the complicated way of saying you don't have a say in a process that's going to be open to the public and difficult to end even when you recover. An estate plan includes:  

·         Instructions for your care if you're suddenly disabled

·         Establishing a guardian for minor children if you can't care for them

·         Protecting property and assets from loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or their spouses, current or estranged.

While speaking of disability or death can be a morbid topic, it is a topic that can help you protect your being, your assets and your legacy. That is worth the peace of mind. 


*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.


 Photo by, used with permission.