What is probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process for the orderly transfer of a decedent’s assets to those who are entitled to receive them.
When someone dies, do I have to go to the Probate Office?
If the person who died had a Will or Last Will and Testament, by state law, you must file the original with the Register in Probate within 30 days of the date of death even if no actual probate process is required.
What is Informal Probate?
Informal probate is the administration of the decedent’s estate, intestate (without a will) or testate (with a will), without the exercise of continued supervision by the Court. Informal administration proceedings are circuit court proceedings under probate jurisdiction and administered by the Probate Registrar.
Do I need a Lawyer?
While Wisconsin Statutes do not require you to hire an attorney to probate an estate informally, you may seek advice or the services of an attorney at any point during the process. Also, at any time during the probate process, a demand for formal proceedings may be filed with the court, at which time the services of an attorney will be necessary. It is important for you to remember that most Probate Registrars are not attorneys. Even if your local Registrar is an attorney, statutes prohibit Registrars from giving legal advice. A Registrar’s role is to guide you, NOT advise you.
What does a Personal Representative do?
Serving as personal representative is a very important job. You will be required to take an oath that you will uphold the law and you may be required to post a bond to protect the assets in the estate. 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 including the date of death values of all assets you have in your control. 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. Notice must also be given to interested persons by mail or personal service if Waiver and Consent forms cannot be obtained.
You may be converting assets to cash, selling real estate, running a business, insuring and keeping property in good repair.
You will collect any income due to the decedent like 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 may be required to file a closing certificate for fiduciaries from the Department of Revenue. You are encouraged to utilize the services of a competent tax preparer or an attorney to help you with this aspect of the estate.
You may be required to file a final accounting showing all money that came in to the estate between date of death and distribution and all money that was paid out of the estate.
You will distribute assets according to the Will and/or statutes and secure receipts from those receiving assets.
Finally, you will file a personal representative’s statement to close estate. Six months after the filing of this statement, your duties are complete.
Who are the heirs?
The heirs are the “closest living relatives” of a person as defined by the Wisconsin Statutes. Heirs are entitled to notice of probate proceedings and will inherit all of the decedent’s assets if he or she did not leave a Will. Review the following list until you find at least one living person. All of the people described in that category will be the heirs.
Spouse, or Spouse and children not of the current marriage(if any).
Children (and descendants of any child who is deceased)
Grandchildren (and descendants of a deceased grandchild)
Siblings (and descendants of siblings who are deceased)
Nieces and nephews (and descendants of those who are deceased)
If none of the above are living, refer to the statutes (chapter 852) for further distribution.
What if there is no Will? What happens then?
If the decedent did not leave a Will and a probate is required, the rules of Intestate Succession apply. See Chapter 852 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
How do I get a Domiciliary Letter?
Domiciliary Letters are issued by the probate court either upon the filing of all required documents with the Probate registrar for an informal proceeding, or after a hearing before the Circuit Judge or Probate Court Commissioner in a formal probate proceeding. The Domiciliary Letters show that the probate court has given the authority to the named personal representative to act on behalf of the estate of the decedent and to perform all duties required to administer the estate according to statute.
Please note that even though a person is nominated in a decedent’s will as personal representative, they do not have the authority to act until Domiciliary Letters have been granted to them by the probate court.
Also, not all probate proceedings require Domiciliary Letters to release the property/funds.
What costs are involved?
Please see the fees page on this website.
What is an Affidavit Under $50,000?
Wisconsin Statutes allows for the transfer of a small estate to an heir of a decedent, to the decedent’s former guardian or a person named in the decedent's will to act as personal representative, without the necessity of going through a probate proceeding. When a decedent leaves solely owned property with a total value of $50,000 or less, the State form, PR-1831, Transfer by Affidavit ($50,000 and Under) can be used. This form is often referred to as a “small estates affidavit”.
The Transfer by Affidavit is not filed or processed by the Probate Court. It is a form to be completed by an heir or guardian of the deceased and presented to the institution or other entity holding an asset of the deceased.
This form and instructions are available from the office of your county Register in Probate or you may obtain the form from the Wisconsin Court System Website at: http://wicourts.gov/forms1/circuit.htm
How do I file a claim?
Complete standard state form PR-1819, Claim against Estate.
File the completed form with the Register in Probate together with the $3.00 statutory filing fee. Please be aware that the claim may not be filed if the $3.00 fee does not accompany the claim.
Send a copy of the claim to the Personal Representative and the estate attorney, if any.
There is a time limit fort filing a claim based on when the probate action was started. You can check the court file in person or review the court record on the internet at: http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl to find out the claims deadline for a particular case.
What if I have a Power of Attorney?
Your power to act as agent ends with the death of the principal.
How can I get State forms?
The use of standard State forms is required by all Wisconsin Circuit Courts. You may obtain State probate forms from the office of your county Register in Probate or you may print or download probate forms from the Supreme Court Website at: http://wicourts.gov/forms1/circuit.htm
How do I get an EIN number?
The form to apply for an Employer Identification Number is available at the following website: http://www.firstgov.gov