The probate process exists to protect anyone with an interest in the estate of someone who has passed away. The deceased individual’s assets are reviewed and supervised by the court and divided up among the beneficiaries, in addition to creditors and taxing authorities.
In the state of Wisconsin, the probate process triggers automatically if the estate is worth $50,000 or more. However, there are specific exemptions where probate can be avoided. The scenarios include jointly titled assets where a beneficiary has been declared. Another scenario that avoids probate is if the assets were placed in a revocable trust before death.
An estate planning attorney can assist with setting up a revocable trust if the family desires to avoid the probate process and its costs.
Assistance with the Probate Process
If a revocable trust was not set up, and the estate is valued at greater than $50,000, it will have to go through the probate process unless the other exemptions are met. The probate process can be handled formally or informally.
An individual who is selected as the personal representative has a great deal of responsibility in the process. Due to this, it is common that an estate personal representative will seek legal consult and representation during the process. If the estate owner themselves didn’t select a personal representative before their death, the court would likely choose a family member to fill the role.
The probate process can be lengthy – Wisconsin law requires that it be completed within 18 months. Even then, extensions can be granted in some instances. It is uncommon that the probate process would be completed in less than six months.
If the distribution of assets is being contested, the estate will be required to go through the formal probate process. In this scenario, an attorney will represent the personal representative and work through the process.
When probate is handled informally, meaning there are no known disputes in asset distribution, the personal representative may still want an attorney present or that they can consult with. The attorney should attend the probate hearings to listen to everything said and help ensure the process is playing out as expected.
It is crucial to have a Wisconsin estate planning attorney familiar with the probate process assist the personal representative. Family members commonly dispute items after the probate process is finalized, so having someone who understands Wisconsin probate law keep track and monitor the process while it is happening is preferred.
Required Payments During the Probate Process
When an estate valued at more than $50,000 goes to probate in Wisconsin, there is an order in which outstanding debts are required to be paid. Funeral costs are the immediate and first priority in probate cases. Following funeral costs, unpaid taxes and debts must be paid when claims have been made.
After all debts and taxes have been taken care of, beneficiaries have access to what remains. To avoid the cost of probate, many future-thinking individuals have a revocable trust set up that can work for them and their families in the present, setting them up for the best outcome of the division of assets once they die.
Anyone needing assistance with probate or seeking a revocable trust or estate plan in the Milwaukee area is encouraged to contact Collins Law Firm. The estate planning experts can be reached by calling 414-207-6292 or filling out this form.