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The following information is an attempt to provide a skeleton overview of the various aspects of estates/trusts commonly referred to as probate. The Register in Probate Office is available to provide assistance (NOT legal advice) with the following categories:
  • Informal Administration
  • Formal Administration
  • Special Administration
  • Summary Assignment/Summary Settlement
  • Transfer by Affidavit ($50,000 and Under)

The Register in Probate Office also handles trusts that are created by a Will. Various reasons exist for creating a trust within your Will. The trust holds the property for another person’s benefit. Other types of trusts are available but are not administered by the Register in Probate Office.

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 going to:

This procedure may be used if the decedent has $50,000 or more of assets. An attorney must be used, and all hearings are held in front of the Circuit Court Judge. An Inventory is completed, a notice is published in the newspaper, and the Court insures that the matter is completed in a timely and proper manner.


This procedure can be used when:

  • There is no estate to be administered and an act needs to be performed on behalf of the decedent which affects or is important to the petitioner or any other person. For example, a creditor may file a Special Administration petition on his own behalf.
  • The final judgment in an estate has been entered and an act remains unperformed, or new assets are discovered.
  • The estate can be filed under Summary Assignment or Summary Settlement.
  • It is necessary to preserve an estate before a Personal Representative can be appointed.
  • Circumstances exist under Wisconsin State Statute 867.05(5) and (6).
  • A cause of action exists for or against the decedent or decedent’s estate prior to Letters being issued to a Personal Representative.
  • Other circumstances at the discretion of the Court.

Summary Assignment and Summary Settlement procedures are used when the decedent is survived by a spouse and/or minor children (Summary Settlement), or if there is no spouse (Summary Assignment). The value of the estate cannot exceed $50,000 after the expenses are paid. Summary Settlement does not require publication.

Pursuant to Wis. Stats. Sec. 867.03, Transfer by Affidavit is used for solely-owned property within this state valued at $50,000 or under. Any heir, trustee, former guardian or a person named in the decedent' will to act as personal representative may collect and transfer the solely-owned assets by completing an Affidavit in duplicate. The original form must be sent via certified mail to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (the address is included on the form). The signed return receipt, along with the duplicate form, must be presented to the holder of the asset 10 days after the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services has signed the return receipt. This is a non-probate form and is not filed with the Register in Probate office.

Register in Probate Page