At Schuk Law, LLC, it is our goal to ensure that your wishes are adhered both during your life and upon your death. It is our sincere hope that our work provides you and your loved ones with the peace of mind you deserve. When it comes to the management, administration, and distribution of an estate, the Wisconsin probate process may are invoked.
Probate can be challenging. Not only is the process complicated, but it also plays out in front of the public eye. Understanding the probate process can be helpful for anyone considering the importance of estate planning or for anyone who is challenging a will, trust, or another aspect of a decedent's estate plan. The best course of action, however, is to discuss your circumstances with an experienced estate planning lawyer.
What is Probate in Wisconsin?
Probate is the legal process in Wisconsin that empowers a court to determine if a last will and testament is valid and to freeze it until the latter has been proven as such and all relevant parties have been notified.
If there is no will, the court will distribute the assets of the estate according to Wisconsin intestacy laws. The assets that may be transferred through the probate process can include:
- Mutual funds
- Real estate
The probate process can be long in some situations, which leaves the family confused or wondering how long it will take. An experienced probate lawyer can provide valuable insight and guide you through the process to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
Wisconsin Probate Process
The probate process in a Wisconsin court varies, depending on whether the deceased person had a will or not. Probate law sets out the process for distributing assets and guidelines for an interested party to challenge the will.
The general probate process is as follows:
- Probate begins with the appointment of someone to take control of the estate during the process. The person in charge of administering a probate estate is known as the executor. The will in a probate case will typically identify an executor. In cases where there is no will, it is up to the probate judge to appoint one.
- With an administrator in place, the court must next determine that a will is valid. The requirements for a will are technical; hiring a seasoned probate lawyer can go a long way towards ensuring a will survives legal scrutiny.
- Once the court determines the will is valid, the next step is to inventory the property of the deceased person. No property will be sold until the inventory is completed.
- After inventory, every asset will be appraised to determine its fair market value.
- If the deceased person owed any legal obligations or tax debts, those will be satisfied through the sale and liquidation of assets, if necessary.
- In the end, the remaining assets will be divvied up among the heirs according to the last will and testament. If there is no will in place, the judge will distribute the assets according to what is set out in Wisconsin law.
Typically, a probate case will take between six and nine months to complete. However, in complicated litigation, a probate case may last much longer.
Property Not Included in Wisconsin Probate
There are certain types of property that may be distributed without the use of probate courts. These can include assets like life insurance payouts or other assets with a “payable upon death” beneficiary.
If set up correctly, these assets will immediately transfer to the intended beneficiary upon death without the need of probate court. Additionally, there are specific types of trusts that allow for assets to transfer outside of the probate process. This is helpful as it removes the added expense of probate filings and allows the matter to remain private.
To learn more, discuss your options with attorney Brian A. Schuk today.
Common Wisconsin Probate Problems
The probate process can be complicated, especially without the guidance of an experienced probate attorney. There are common issues that arise in both simple and complex probate cases. Some common probate issues are discussed below.
In many cases, it can be months or even years before a probate case is finalized and assets are distributed. The process for having a will admitted to probate can be lengthy and that is only the beginning of the process. Properly cataloging and valuing each asset can be time-consuming, and an error can lead to significant delays.
Unfortunately, not every last will and testament will make every potential heir happy. If there are disagreements about whether a will is valid, it could lead to lengthy litigation in the form of a will contest. The requirements for a valid will are complex, and even a seemingly minor clerical error can result in the will never to be admitted into probate.
There are grounds for challenging a will outside of these technical mistakes. If an heir believes the will was the product of fraud or undue influence, it may be possible to have the will thrown out. Likewise, a will contest is also available in cases where the deceased person lacked the capacity to execute a will at the time it was signed.
The complex nature of a probate case is only exacerbated when taxes come into play. There is a myriad of taxation issues that involve both the estate and any heirs. If a will or trust is not structured appropriately, it could lead to a larger tax burden than what would have been necessary.
How an Experienced Probate Attorney in Lake Geneva can Help
The process of losing a loved one is difficult enough on its own; adding a complicated or protracted probate fight only adds to the pain. An experienced probate lawyer will be able to help keep a probate case moving forward and can provide counsel on ways to avoid taxation issues or will contests.
To avoid these issues and ensure your final wishes are carried out, contact the experienced probate legal team at Schuk Law, LLC today for a consultation.