When someone passes away, their assets could end up in probate. During this process, the debts and assets are managed and distributed by the courts. However, not all assets will proceed through probate. A few are exempt in Wisconsin and can pass to beneficiaries without court supervision. Let’s examine the process and learn what assets are exempt from probate in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s Probate Process
The Wisconsin probate process begins with filing a petition in the county where the deceased person resided. After notifying interested parties and addressing outstanding debts and expenses, the remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries according to the will. If there is no will, the estate follows the intestate succession rules.
Once the court approves the distribution, the probate process is finalized. The duration of probate can vary. However, it can take several months to conclude. For that reason, many individuals want to avoid probate. Here are some of the assets that can avoid this legal process.
Jointly Owned Assets
If the assets are jointly owned, they will be exempt. When the co-owner dies, the survivor will become the sole owner of these assets. Some examples of these assets include:
- Real estate
- Bank accounts
Assets with Designated Beneficiaries
Certain assets allow the owner to designate beneficiaries. These assets include:
- Retirement accounts
- Insurance policies
- Payable-on-death (POD) accounts
The benefits are paid directly to the named beneficiaries when that individual passes away. In turn, they bypass probate. These beneficiaries can change during the owner’s lifetime to reflect their wishes.
If the assets were placed in a revocable living trust, they are exempt from probate. When the trustor passes away, a trustee manages the assets and distributes them according to the trust’s terms. That process occurs with the need for probate court involvement. Creating a trust can be a valuable strategy for avoiding probate and distributing your assets according to your wishes.
Transfer-on-Death (TOD) Real Estate Deeds
Wisconsin allows property owners to use transfer-on-death deeds for real estate. This legal document lets the property owner specify who will inherit the property after their death. When the property owner passes away, the property transfers directly to the designated beneficiary.
Family Allowances and Exemptions
Wisconsin law provides certain allowances and exemptions that protect a portion of the deceased individual’s assets for surviving family members. The family allowance is a sum of money granted to the surviving spouse and minor children for their support during the probate process.
Additionally, the state provides for homestead and personal property exemptions. They can protect the family home and certain personal property from being used to pay the deceased’s debts.
Small Business Interests
If the deceased has some small business interests, those assets may be transferred according to the business’s articles of incorporation or bylaws. Sometimes, these provisions allow the assets to stay out of the probate process.
Learn More About These Assets With Help from Collins Law Firm
Keep in mind that the rules and regulations surrounding probate and exempt assets can change over time. Working with a knowledgeable attorney experienced in Wisconsin probate and estate planning can help you determine the right options for your assets.
If you want to learn more about what assets are exempt from probate in Wisconsin, reach out to Collins Law Firm. We can help you choose the right options to protect your family and assets. Contact us to book your free consultation by calling (414)-207-6292.