Serving Clients Throughout Wisconsin

Beware your Uncle’s Newfound ‘Friends’ – Some People Make a Fortune from Elders

Guardianship proceedings can be time-consuming, financially draining and emotionally exhausting. But should they always be avoided at all costs? Not necessarily. In many cases, a well-drafted estate plan, with detailed powers of attorney governing your financial and health-care matters, is entirely sufficient to meet your needs, leaving a court procedure unnecessary after your passing. In some cases, though, a guardianship or conservatorship can offer unique and essential benefits, especially when the subject is potentially under the undue influence of another.

Take the case of elderly Milwaukee County farmer Gerald Mahr, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Mahr passed away in 2011, but several relatives and other loved ones headed to court this summer to contest the man’s will, which left nearly all of his estate to a carpenter who had befriended the man several years ago. The would-be heirs claimed that the carpenter exerted undue influence over the farmer and fleeced him into changing his estate plan.

Powers of attorney have many advantages. One potential advantage for many people is that they are usually easy to change or replace. This may serve as a disadvantage if a person falls under the sway of someone exerting undue influence over them. That person may take over as agent under a financial power of attorney, and potentially assume broad control over the person’s entire wealth. Mahr had powers of attorney but changed them, along with the terms of his will, five times between 1999 and 2009, with each new will allegedly offering a larger distribution to the carpenter.

One of Mahr’s relatives worked with the farmer to create a conservatorship for him. In Wisconsin, conservatorships are court proceedings where the would-be ward requests the court to appoint another to manage their financial matters. Conservatorships require no finding of mental incapacity by the court, but do require the ward to agree voluntarily. In Mahr’s case, the farmer eventually backed out of the conservatorship idea. Relatives believed this was also due to the carpenter’s excessive influence.

guardianship of Mahr’s estate would not have required his approval, but it is more complex, involving examinations by physicians and/or psychologists, and a court’s determination regarding the farmer’s mental capacity. The level of investigation required to make this capacity determination can be extensive, which is why many people seek to create estate plans that avoid the need for guardianships. However, in cases where a loved one is truly under the improper influence of another person bent upon exhausting (or taking) that person’s assets for their own benefits, an involuntary proceeding may be the only way to save the wealth your loved one has worked to accumulate.

Protecting yourself and your loved ones through estate planning involves weighing the relative advantages and disadvantages of the multiple avenues that exist for accomplishing those goals. To receive the finest in careful and personalized advice about your estate, or that of a loved one, contact estate planning attorney Daniel J. Krause of Krause Law Offices LLC. He can provide you with thoughtful and easy-to-understand options for meeting your family’s needs.

Contact us through our website to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation.



Quality Counsel

Experience You Can Count On

What Sets Us Apart?

Our Philosophy
  • Cutting Edge
  • Authentic
  • Respect
  • Empathy
    She was very responsive and always made sure to answer any questions we had.

    “Our experience with Danielle was very professional and efficient even with having to do everything through zoom due to Covid. She was very responsive and always made sure to answer any questions we ha ...”

    - Shannon
    [Matt] was very engaging and rephrased any questions we didn't udnerstand.

    “Matt was able to answer my questions without all the legal mumbo jumbo. He was very engaging and rephrased any questions we didn't udnerstand. Due to COVID pandemic, we were limited to a phone ...”

    - Steven
    [Matt] was very helpful...

    “He was very helpful in answering our questions and providing guidance that we understood.”

    - Troy
    He took the time to understand our goals and our family situation. He was friendly, thorough, and very knowledgeable.

    “What a great attorney! He explained everything to us in plain English, with no legal jargon. He took the time to understand our goals and our family situation. He was friendly, thorough, and very ...”

    - Mark
    He was wonderful...they asked all the right questions, were patient with our back and forth, and everything was wrapped up successfully.

    “My husband and I needed a will and turned to this firm for their help after the firm had invited us to a "what is estate planning all" about dinner/meeting. Having a will was something we knew we ...”

    - Kris
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please enter your address.
  • Please enter your city.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter your zip code.
    This isn't a valid zip cide.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.