Do You Understand Probate Laws in WI?

Categories: estate planning


For many families, when a loved one dies, they are forced to deal with the process known as probate. Probate is the legal process for distributing a person’s estate after death.

If you are getting ready to go through probate – whether as a personal representative, heir, beneficiary, or other interested party – it is important to have at least a basic understanding of the laws and processes involved. This article provides a very brief overview. For more in-depth information, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation.

Understanding Probate in Wisconsin

1. Who’s Who?

To understand the probate process in Wisconsin, a good starting point is to figure out who’s who. Wisconsin’s probate law uses a number of terms that most people have heard, but that are also commonly confused or misunderstood. The main people involved in the probate process are typically:

  • Personal representative – The personal representative is the individual who is responsible for administering a decedent’s probate estate.
  • Heir – An heir is an individual who is entitled to a share of the decedent’s estate in the absence of a will.
  • Beneficiary – A beneficiary is a person who is named in a will (or other estate planning document) as the intended recipient of a portion of the decedent’s estate.
  • Creditor – A creditor is a party (such as a credit card company) that is entitled to a portion of the decedent’s estate as a result of a debt that existed at the time of death.

2. Two Types of Probate.

Wisconsin law allows for both “informal” and “formal” probate. In informal probate, the decedent’s personal representative is able to handle much of the process without direct court oversight (though usually with the help of an attorney). By contrast, formal probate – as its name suggests – is a more intensive process that involves obtaining various judicial approvals. In formal probate, a judge will also rule on any disputes regarding the contents of the decedent’s will.

By default, probate proceedings in Wisconsin are subject to formal administration. Learn about the requirements for using informal probate in Wisconsin.

3. The Steps in the Probate Process.

Setting aside any disputes regarding the contents of a will or performance of the personal representative’s duties, both informal and formal probate follow a fairly standard progression. The main steps in Wisconsin probate include:

  • Review and interpretation of the decedent’s will (if any)
  • Commencement of probate by filing with the court
  • Identification and collection of the decedent’s assets
  • Notice and payment to any creditors of the estate
  • Distribution of the decedent’s remaining assets according to the will (if any) or the laws of intestate succession
  • Closing the probate estate

Of course, the time and effort involved in completing these steps can vary significantly depending on the size and complexity of the estate, as well as a variety of other relevant factors.

Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.

Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.

Contact Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C. to Speak with a Probate Lawyer in Wausau, WI

For more information about going through probate in Wisconsin, contact Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C. to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced probate attorneys. To get started, call our Wausau, WI law offices at (715) 842-2291 or submit our online request form today.