No matter how young or old you are, it's never too soon to hire an estate lawyer. Estate planning is the best way to ensure your family is provided for and your wishes are followed after your death or incapacitation. Before scheduling a consultation with an estate lawyer, Metcalf & Quinn in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, recommend reviewing this outline of the state's laws regarding inheritance, wills, and probate.
Probate is the process of having a deceased person’s estate resolved under court supervision. In Wisconsin, probate is required for all estates worth $50,000 or more. The process includes gathering and valuing all the assets of the deceased, paying any bills or taxes owed, and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs.
Probate is carried out by a personal representative, also called the executor of the estate. The will may nominate a personal representative, or the court may appoint one. Either way, by agreeing to the role, the personal representative takes on the responsibility of resolving all debt, paying all taxes, distributing assets, then finalizing and closing the estate.
Wills and trusts can speed or help avoid the process of the probate court entirely. For instance, not all a deceased person's assets are included in the probate process. Life insurance policies and retirement accounts pay out to their designated beneficiaries, and various accounts and securities can be set up to transfer on death without the need for the court to interfere. Property owned in joint tenancy or as survivorship marital property is also transferred to the remaining co-owner or spouse. And if money or assets are included in a trust, they will be maintained and distributed according to the conditions of that trust, rather than passing through probate.
If you own a home, are married with children, or have other assets that could require distribution no matter your age, contacting an attorney who specializes in wills, trusts, and estates is a good first step. If you haven't drafted your will, today is the day to start. Contact Metcalf and Quinn at (715) 423-1940 to schedule a consultation, or request one online.