We can help guide you through this complicated process with professionalism and sensitivity.
What is probate?
Probate is the court proceeding whereby the court formally recognizes the Will, if any, of a deceased person, and the assets are obtained and distributed according to the law. Probate in Wisconsin may either be "formal" or "informal." The difference between the two is the amount of court involvement in the proceeding.
When is the “reading of the will” for family members?
Despite what they show on television, there is generally no formal "reading of the will." A family member or several family members, including the designated Personal Representative or executor, usually bring the Will to an attorney of their choice. The attorney reviews the Will with the family and discusses the known assets of the deceased to determine whether a probate of the estate is necessary. Of course, if the decedent requested a formal reading of the Will or if the family would like one, it may be arranged with your attorney.
Is probate always necessary?
A probate action may not be necessary depending on the dollar amount of the assets the decedent had at the time of death. There are different procedures for estates valued at $10,000 or less, for estates valued between $10,000 and $50,000, and finally for estates valued at over $50,000. If assets are held in joint tenancy or made payable on death, no probate may be necessary. However, in these cases there may still be some legal work to terminate the tenancy or to preserve tax status. These considerations should be discussed with an attorney.
Who should come and what should we bring to the first appointment with the attorney?
The spouse of the decedent and the designated Personal Representative should come to the first appointment, if possible. Generally, any immediate family member who would like to come is also invited. The family should come with a death certificate, if available, and the names and addresses of all of the people named in the will. If at all possible, financial information should be brought to the first appointment. The information most helpful would be the names of any institutions holding assets. If there is real estate, the abstract or title policy and the most recent property tax bill should also be brought to the meeting. If this information is not readily accessible to the person attending the appointment, it would be helpful to bring the deceased person's latest income tax return. Information on insurance policies, pension plans, and other assets should also be taken to the first appointment. Of course, in many situations, these documents may simply not be available at the outset. In those cases, we will collect them as they become available.
How long does it take to settle an estate?
Some important dates in estate proceedings:
Appointment of the personal representative: A few days to a month.
Publication in the local newspaper: Three consecutive weeks with the first insertion being within fifteen days from the filing of the estate.
Time limit for creditors to file claims : Not less than three months nor more than four months from the date of the order.
Time limit to file the Inventory: Any time before but not later than six months after appointment of personal representative.
Deadline to file a Disclaimer (to reject assets that you wish to go to an alternate beneficiary): Any time before but no later than nine months after date of death.
IRS Form 706: No later than nine months after date of death.
If there is real estate to be sold, the market plays a large role in how fast an estate may be settled. An estate is generally closed within a year after the date of death. This process can be shortened depending upon the types of assets involved.
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