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WSLL @ Your Service May 2024

The Long Goodbye: Handling Matters Before Departing and After

By John P. Doyle, Library Intern, Madison College Paralegal Program

image of a notepad that says make a will

Whether you are planning your estate or have just lost a loved one, it is natural to feel overwhelmed by the practical tasks that lie ahead. Checklists can help you to prepare for this challenging time. Many people have estate planning or funeral arrangements in place, so the checklists in this article may have items that are already planned. However, there are often overlooked details and loose ends that still need tying up during life's final transition. No matter how well you have prepared, grief can make decision-making difficult. Having a comprehensive guide allows you to consider all the dimensions involved - legal, financial, memorial, and more. It provides a roadmap for navigating formalities and mundane necessities with a clear head.

These checklists cover common areas that demand attention, both in the pre-planning phase and after a passing. But every situation is unique based on individual circumstances. Use these lists as a starting point, but be ready to address personalized factors. With some forethought and guidance, you can minimize undue stress during an already emotionally taxing period.

Before you die

  • Create an estate plan: This includes drafting a will, updating it when necessary, establishing trusts if desired, and designating powers of attorney for financial and healthcare matters. An estate planning attorney can guide you through this process.
  • Preplan your funeral arrangements: Decide on burial or cremation preferences, select a funeral home, and arrange services. As a starting point, see Shopping for Funeral Services from the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Organize important documents: Gather and securely store all necessary documents, including your will, trust documents, deeds, titles, insurance policies, bank statements, and a list of contact people that have knowledge about these accounts.
  • Keep your documents up to date: As life goes on, your choice of beneficiaries on non-probate transfers, such as life insurance policies and annuities, may change.
  • Communicate your wishes: Discuss your plans and preferences with your loved ones, ensuring they understand your desires for end-of-life care, funeral arrangements, and the distribution of your assets. This authorization for final disposition form from the Dept. of Health Services can help.
  • Social media accounts and email: It is a good idea to know where the digital passwords are for these accounts. Keep a secure list with accounts, passwords, and instructions for those you designate to manage your digital footprint after your death. Social media accounts can be deactivated or sometimes turned into legacy accounts memorializing the deceased, so leave your wishes to those who will manage these matters for you. This Digital Assets Inventory worksheet from the State Bar of Wisconsin provides an outline to get you started.

What loved ones must do immediately or shortly after a death

  • Notify family and friends: Inform close family members and friends about the passing as soon as possible, either through individual calls or group communication.
  • Contact the funeral home: If prearrangements were made, notify the funeral home to initiate the process. If not, select a reputable funeral home to oversee the necessary arrangements.
  • Obtain death certificates: Request multiple certified copies of the death certificate, as these will be required by various organizations and institutions. The funeral home can order them for you, or you can get certified copies from Wisconsin Department of Health Services via VitalCheck.com. There is a processing fee for this service.
  • Locate important documents: Gather all relevant documents, including the will, trust documents, deeds, titles, insurance policies, bank statements, and a list of digital accounts and passwords.
  • Notify relevant organizations: Contact your local Social Security office, pension providers, insurance companies, banks, and other financial institutions to report the death and inquire about benefits or claim procedures.
  • Initiate the probate process: If necessary, consult with a probate attorney to begin the process of settling the estate according to the deceased's will or state laws. The Wisconsin Register in Probate Association is an excellent place to begin the process. Their booklet, A Personal Representatives Guide to Informal Estate Administration, is a good starting place for the self-represented.
  • Manage digital assets: Access and manage the deceased's email, social media accounts, and other digital assets according to their wishes or by following the platform's policies for deceased users.
  • Seek support: Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be challenging. Reach out to family, friends, and professional services for support during this difficult time.

Planning ahead can provide peace of mind for you and your family. If you have lost a loved one, the grieving process is unique to everyone, and it is essential to be patient and kind to yourself and others during this transition. Reach out for help if you need it. Support from family, friends, and those there to assist you during the transition can make the process tolerable.


Photo credit: Ooddysmile - stock.adobe.com

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New Display: The Progress of Technology and the Law - Chris Schroeder

At the Wisconsin State Law Library, we understand the vital role technology plays in preserving legal history and enhancing legal research. Through digitized archives and our vast printed collection, we combine the past with the present, offering an understanding of how technology has shaped the evolution of law throughout the years. Check out this month’s display, and explore how technology and the legal industry connect.

book display

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New books - Chris Schroeder

book cover

New Edition! Election law in a nutshell, by Daniel Tokaji and Robert Yablon
KF 4886 .T65 2024

Election law captures widespread public attention while holding significant practical implications for those in the legal profession. With a landscape shaped by landmark Supreme Court cases such as Bush v. Gore, Citizens United v. FEC, and Shelby County v. Holder, election law is a magnet for controversy while also setting legal precedent. In this Nutshell guide, readers are offered a comprehensive exploration of key election law principles, from the fundamental "one person, one vote" doctrine to the complexities of gerrymandering, minority voting rights, and campaign finance regulations. The authors examine pivotal constitutional provisions and legislative acts like the Voting Rights Act and the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Topics include:

  • The history of voting rights in the U.S.
  • The constitutional right to vote
  • Representation and re-districting
  • Election administration and remedies
  • Campaign finance regulation

book cover

New Edition! The criminal law handbook: know your rights, survive the system, by Paul Bergman and Sara Berman
KF 9619.6 .B47 2024

This book explores the complexities of criminal law, from the moment of arrest to the appellate process. Its user-friendly approach, featuring a question-and-answer format and real-life examples, helps to simplify complex legal concepts for readers of all backgrounds. Unlike typical legal texts written for professionals, this handbook serves as an accessible resource for anyone curious about the workings of the criminal justice system.

Topics include:

  • Search and seizure
  • Arrest, booking, and bail
  • Miranda rights
  • Working with defense attorneys
  • Constitutional rights
  • Victims' rights

New books

See our latest New Titles list for a list of new books and other resources. For assistance in accessing these or other resources, please contact our Reference Desk.

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Tech Tip - Heidi Yelk

Reader view - less clutter, more webpage accessibility

Changing to "reader mode" or "reader view" on your desktop web browser can instantly make for a better experience on many webpages. Reader view generally removes advertisements, frames, formatting, and other elements while centering text and increasing the text size. For many users, this makes for a cleaner display and easier reading. Once in "reader view" there are additional options users can implement, depending on the browser. These include changing fonts or text size, changing the background color, using a voice feature to read the text read aloud, and disabling embedded links.

Entering and exiting reader view is fast and easy. In Firefox and Microsoft Edge, toggle in and out of reader view by simply by pressing the F9 key. In Chrome, click on the three dot menu (upper right) and choose "more" and then "reading mode" or use the side panel options. Read more about these tools at the following pages: Firefox Reader View, Chrome Reading Mode, and Microsoft Edge Immersive Reader.

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Library News - Carol Hassler

Celebrate Law Day at the Dane County Courthouse

Wednesday, May 1st is Law Day, a day set aside to celebrate and learn more about the rule of law. The Dane County Bar Association is presenting three free CLE programs, open to the public and DCBA members. (There is a fee for non-DCBA members who are also seeking CLE credit.) The schedule of events is included below. Events are held at the Dane County Courthouse in room L1000.

Strengthening Democracy Through State Constitutions
Professor Robert Yablon- UW Law School                     
12:00 - 12:50 pm

False Electors and Fair Maps
Dan Lenz & Scott Thompson- Law Forward                    
1:00 - 1:50 pm

Ethics of Honesty: Duties of Candor to Parties and Tribunals
Sarah Peterson- State Bar of Wisconsin               
2:00 - 2:50 pm

Libraries closed on Memorial Day

All three libraries will be closed on Monday, May 27th in observance of Memorial Day. Send questions and requests to wsll.ref@wicourts.gov or leave a message at 608-267-9696. We'll get back to you on Tuesday, May 28th.

Treatment court research

May is National Treatment Court Month, and a great time to brush up on your knowledge of treatment court programs available in your practice area. Librarian Carol Hassler provides an overview of research sources to learn more about treatment courts in Wisconsin, in Legal Research 101: Treatment Courts, an article published in the State Bar of Wisconsin's InsideTrack.

Legal research tools and techniques seminar

Librarian Carol Hassler will instruct on special topics in legal research during the upcoming State Bar of Wisconsin's Legal Research Tools and Techniques seminar, offered live or as a webcast on Thursday, May 30. The seminar provides tips for online research, including search engine strategies, public record searching, legislative history, and more. Learn more about what's covered and register online: Legal Research Tools and Techniques.

State Law Library at Culture Keepers Reconvening 2024

In April, State Law Librarian Amy Crowder presented at Culture Keepers Reconvening 2024, a gathering for tribal librarians, archivists, museum curators, and culture keepers. Amy demonstrated HeinOnline’s Indigenous Peoples of the Americas: History, Culture & Law database and shared the library’s Indigenous Peoples Law page, as well as State Law Library services for tribal librarians, judges, and court staff. 

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May Snapshot

Detroit Public Library

Detroit Public Library
Photo by Keely Wrolstad

"The Fountain of Wisdom Flows Through Books." This photo of the Rose & Robert Skillman Branch of the Detroit Public Library, opened January 4, 1932, was taken from the Detroit People Mover.

We are accepting snapshots! Do you have a photo highlighting libraries, attractions or points of historical interest? Send your photo the editor at carol.hassler@wicourts.gov to be included in a future issue.

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