Imagine that you and your siblings grew up learning the ins and outs of your father’s furniture business, and eventually joined your father in its operations.
Now imagine that your father often said that he wanted the business to stay in the family, even after his death.
Further imagine that, during an exceptionally profitable year, your father dies. And your short-sighted siblings vow to sell the business.
Until recently, Wisconsin’s Dead Man’s Statute would have prevented you from testifying as to your father’s statements regarding the business.
The Statute prohibited “interested” persons from testifying to any prior “transaction or communication” with someone now dead.
It also prohibited an interested shareholder, officer, or trustee from testifying to prior communications or transactions, affecting business interests, with one now dead.
Effective July 1, 2017, however, by virtue of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Order, the Dead Man’s Statute will be repealed.
The truth or falsity of an interested person’s testimony regarding a decedent will then be allowed, measured under the same standards as other testimony.
It will also bring Wisconsin in line with the roughly 37 other states that repealed or never had such a statute.
The Statute was intended to “protect” a decedent who could not protect himself.
Its repeal, however, nonetheless, will allow consideration of all relevant facts in a case.