Probate Law in Wisconsin
Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s estate after he or she dies, and paying off the decedent’s debts. Probate is necessary with or without a will, however estates of $50,000 or less do not always have to go through probate, and there are many devices a person can set up while alive to keep property and assets out of probate. In Wisconsin, probate can be a lengthy process, but should be completed within one year of filing the opening documents.
Assets and Property Which Do Not Go Through Probate
Estate planning can keep most or all of your assets out of probate. You may have already set up some of these estate planning devices, and if not you should consider it now so that your loved ones do not have to wait out the probate process in order to receive assets after you die.
- Transfer-on-death real estate deeds
- Pay-on-death bank accounts
- Transfer-on-death stock and bond registration
- Property and assets owned in joint tenancy
- Property and assets held as survivorship marital property
- Assets and property held in living trusts
- Retirement and pension plans with named beneficiaries
- Life insurance and other types of insurance with named beneficiaries
Will or No Will
If you die with a will (testate), once your debts are taken care of or the time for creditors to make claims expires, your remaining estate and personal items are distributed according to the instructions in your will. You have the opportunity to name the executor in your will. And, of course, you can choose who will care for your minor children.
If you die without a will (intestate) under Wisconsin probate law your estate is distributed according to Wisconsin intestacy laws, and may not go to the people and/or organizations you would wish to receive them.
Types of Probate and Alternatives to Probate
There are two types of probate – formal probate and informal probate. For formal probate you are required by law to have the assistance of an attorney. Estates of more than $50,000 must go through either formal or informal probate.
Estates of $50,000 or less may be administered by Summary Settlement or Summary Assignment or they may be transferred without administration in a process called Transfer by Affidavit.
Summary Settlement is used to transfer the estate if there is a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or minor child.