Informal Probate may be used if there are $50,000 or more of assets, and the will does not prohibit its use. An attorney is not required but may be used. All parties must agree to use this procedure, and any party at any time may petition the Court for Formal Administration (an attorney must be hired and all hearings are held in front of the Circuit Court Judge). An Inventory must be completed and a notice is published in the newspaper. The personal representative is responsible for making sure all aspects of the administration are completed in a timely and proper manner.
A statement in a Will about who should serve as personal representative does not automatically allow you to start performing the duties of a personal representative. The statement in the Will is merely a nomination by the decedent. The Court must appoint you before you assume the duties of a personal representative. The document that shows your authority is entitled Domiciliary Letters.
Serving as personal representative is a very important job. You must keep all interested parties informed of the status of the estate proceedings and complete the estate in a timely fashion.
For all practical purposes, a personal representative is acting in place of the decedent. You are expected to handle the assets of the decedent just as any prudent person would handle their own assets.
Your duties will include taking possession of all the decedent’s assets and filing an inventory which includes the date of death values of all assets you have in your control (the Inventory must be completed within 6 months of the filing of the Petition). There is a filing fee based on the inventoried assets in the amount of .2% of the gross estate, less any liens. For example, if a ward has $50,000 in solely owned assets, the fee is $100.00 ($50,000 x .002).
You will be starting a checking account where you can keep accurate records of income and expenses. You will give notice to creditors and may give notice to interested persons by publication in the newspaper. The Vernon County Broadcaster is the official Vernon County newspaper.
You may be liquefying assets, selling real estate, running a business, insuring and keeping property in good repair. You will collect any income due to the decedent such as interest, dividends, rent, etc. You will pay bills, settle proper claims or object to claims that are not appropriate.
There may be final and fiduciary tax returns to complete. You will be required to file a closing certificate for fiduciaries issued by the Department of Revenue. You are encouraged to utilize the services of a competent tax preparer, accountant, or an attorney to help you with this aspect of the estate.
You will be required to file a final accounting showing all money that came into and was disbursed out of the estate between the date of death and the final distribution. You will distribute assets according to the Will and/or statutes and secure receipts from those receiving assets.
Timelines: The Inventory must be filed within 6 months of the filing of the Petition. An estate must be closed within 12 months of the filing of the Petition for Administration, unless the personal representative petitions the Court for additional time in which to close the estate.
The Wisconsin Register in Probate association has developed a booklet entitled A Personal Representative’s Guide to Informal Probate in Wisconsin to assist you with the Informal Probate Process. You may access that booklet by clicking here.