Probate essentially exists to protect anyone with a legal interest in the estate of a deceased person. Without the probate process, there could be a potential free-for-all on valuable property, ending in significant disputes. In addition, probate exists not only to distribute assets but also to ensure that any creditors are paid and taxes.
What Triggers Probate in Wisconsin?
The probate process is mandatory in Wisconsin for any estate that exceeds $50,000 in value, with a few exceptions. One of the notable exceptions is when the family took the time to set up a revocable trust. When a revocable trust is set up by an experienced estate attorney, the assets placed within the trust will not be subject to the probate process. In the absence of a revocable trust, it is possible to avoid probate if the assets happen to be jointly titled or if retirement funds are available, but someone other than the trust was listed as the beneficiary.
If there were no measures taken to avoid probate, the chosen person’s personal representative would act as executor. If there was no personal representative selected, the court would typically appoint one – which may be a relative, financial company, or trust company. It is the executor’s job to identify all assets, pay debts, taxes, and other expenses within the probate process.
All told, the probate process may last up to 18 months – and an extension is possible if filed for and approved.
How Much Does Probate Cost in Wisconsin?
Probate costs are paid for by the estate, in general. This includes income taxes and estate taxes. In addition, the court may approve costs if the formal probate process is being used. There are a certain amount of assets that are exempt from the federal estate tax.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to completely predict the full cost of probate, as it largely depends on the complexity of the given estate. In Wisconsin, you can expect to pay about 4 to 5% of the estate’s total value when all is said and done. Attorney fees during the probate process may total half or more of this expense, given the time and complexity involved in settling the estate.
Wisconsin law states that probate must be completed within 18 months, but extensions are not uncommon. Given that all estates are of different sizes and values, the time to complete will vary. In Wisconsin, an estate can often be settled within the probate process in six months.
Avoiding Probate in Wisconsin
Given the overall fees and attorney fees associated with probate – and the time it takes to settle the estate – it’s a wise idea to avoid probate. Often, families fail to plan enough and get stuck within the probate process. But with a bit of planning, a revocable trust can be set up, which avoids probate and the associated fees. While there is a cost to getting a revocable trust set up in Wisconsin, they are much less than those associated with probate, and the settlements can happen much quicker.
A trusted estate planning firm in Wauwatosa and the Milwaukee area, like Collins Law Firm, can make the process of setting up a revocable trust easy and efficient. And the savings in future fees and hassle is well worth setting up the initial consultation.