David W. Reinecke – Foley & Lardner
If you have any questions about Wisconsin’s Uniform Probate Code, David W. Reinecke is the person to ask.
Reinecke, a Madison-based partner at Foley & Lardner who leads the firm’s national Tax and Individual Planning practice group, knows the intricacies of the law for a very good reason — he led the committee that wrote the current version of the law.
Back in the mid-1990s, the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Probate and Trust Law Section recognized that after three decades, the existing probate law was out of date. Reinecke was appointed to lead the Uniform Probate Code Drafting Committee, which spent three years and countless hours reviewing the prior law and creating a new one. The biggest challenge was the time commitment for busy practitioners who met a couple of times each month for an entire day.
“We’d just lock ourselves away in a room with no BlackBerrys, computers, or cell phones and work, literally, from dawn until dusk to work through a certain chunk of legislation,” Reinecke recalled.
The committee developed about 200 pages of text for the new statute. Then Reinecke and his committee were responsible for shepherding the proposed law through the legislative process — finding sponsors, meeting with key legislators to garner support and rewriting parts of the law to incorporate changes requested by legislators. He acknowledged that they made some concessions to get some legislators to support the new law.
“There’s more politics involved in this than your intuition would lead you to believe,” Reinecke said. “You don’t think of the Probate Code as being a political thing, but it turned out that way in a couple of areas.”
The law was enacted in 1999. After a couple of years, a couple dozen “glitches” were identified and Reinecke was called upon to lead the committee that developed a trailer bill to clean up those problems.
But his role didn’t end there. He was also actively involved in communicating the changes to practitioners. He helped put on seminars related to the changes and also has fielded phone calls and e-mails from colleagues with questions.
“In the early stages, it would be a rare week when I wouldn’t get a call from someone, somewhere in the state about various aspects of the new law,” Reinecke said, noting that he still gets about half a dozen calls each year.