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All states have rules and laws regarding probate administration – and Wisconsin’s no different. In Wisconsin, probate is the legal process of transferring assets after a person’s death while also dealing with any amounts owed to creditors or for taxes. A local probate court supervises this process.

In Wisconsin, if your estate is valued at more than $50,000 upon your death, then your estate will have to go through probate whether or not you had a will in place. Suppose your estate is less than $50,000, but your beneficiaries disagree on how your assets should be distributed. In that case, your estate may be required to go through probate administration no matter the amount.

Here are four things to know about Wisconsin probate administration.

1. Who starts the probate administration process in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin probate administration is typically handled by the estate’s executor (also called “personal representative”). The decedent selects the executor prior to death. 

If the decedent didn’t choose an executor, then the probate court will select the personal representative for the estate. This may be a relative, a trust, or a financial institution. 

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        The executor (or personal representative) will identify the decedent’s assets, debts, and taxes owed while working through the Wisconsin probate administration process. Then, the executor will distribute any assets to heirs or beneficiaries and pay any debts, as directed by Wisconsin law.

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        2. Are there any exemptions to Wisconsin probate administration?

        Some assets are exempt from Wisconsin probate administration, including the following:

        • Life insurance proceeds
        • Retirement plan assets
        • Assets titled jointly with another person
        • Assets in a revocable living trust

        3. How much does probate administration in Wisconsin cost?

        Much confusion seems to lie around the cost of probate administration.  However, it’s not as complicated in Wisconsin as you may believe. 

        For example, the decedent’s estate will pay any creditor or tax claims.

        Additionally, any federal or state estate taxes must be paid by the decedent’s estate as well.  Under federal law, the first $11.4 million of the decedent’s estate is exempted from any federal estate tax. In 2023, this exemption amount increases to $12.92 million per person. 

        Wisconsin, on the other hand, does not have an estate tax.

        Additionally, if you hire an experienced probate attorney, you’ll also have legal fees.  The amount is difficult to predict as it often depends upon the estate’s complexity. Finally, the executor is entitled to two percent of the estate’s total value for their efforts.

        A Wisconsin probate court must approve any costs.

        4. How long does Wisconsin’s probate administration take?

        Finally, you may be wondering how long Wisconsin’s probate administration takes. Wisconsin’s state law says that all probate administration must be completed within 18 months.  However, parties may ask for extensions depending – once again – on the estate’s complexity.

        Some estates, however, can be settled within six months.

        The following events can impact the time it takes to settle an estate in Wisconsin:

        • Giving creditors enough time to file claims against the estate for money owed
        • Giving the executor time to complete and file all tax returns
        • Finalizing funeral and burial expenses 
        • Distributing any remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries

        Through careful planning with a qualified attorney, you can reduce the time for probate administration or even eliminate the need for Wisconsin probate.  

        Handling Probate Administration in Wisconsin

        A trusted estate planning firm in Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee area, like Collins Law Firm, can make probate administration efficient. Call us today to see how we can help you and your family during this difficult time.

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