If you plan to write a will, it’s essential to understand the role of probate. This is the process through which the courts authenticate the document, and ensure relevant estate taxes and debts are paid. Legislation regarding probate varies between states, and you should always consult a local lawyer regarding the procedure. Here’s what you need to know if you reside in Wisconsin.
How Probate Works
In Wisconsin, any estate exceeding a value of $50,000 must go through probate. The executor — a person appointed by the deceased in their will — is responsible for submitting the document to the courts. If the will doesn’t name an executor, the courts will appoint a relative, trust company, or financial institution to the role.
Next, a list of all the assets and debts related to the estate must be drawn up. Creditors who are owed money are paid, as well as any relevant estate taxes and administrative fees. Only after this is done can the assets outlined in the will be distributed to the intended beneficiaries.
When You Need a Lawyer
Wisconsin allows for a formal or informal probate process. If the will is contested — meaning people disagree with how the estate’s assets are distributed — then a formal process is mandated. If you’re in such a scenario as a beneficiary, it’s required to have a lawyer represent you.
When drafting your own will, an attorney can help make the document as airtight as possible and harder to contest, ensuring your wishes are adhered to. Your lawyer will also advise on how to best mitigate the impact of taxes and fees, which can eat into the estate’s value and leave less for your intended beneficiaries.
A will is not always the best estate planning tool, and some people opt to create a revocable living trust — which is not subject to probate — instead. For knowledgeable guidance regarding your options in Wisconsin, trust Scott & Heenan LLC of Platteville. Since 1999, this law firm has provided residents throughout Grant County with reliable, informed legal counsel backed by personalized attention to detail. Visit their website for a full breakdown of their practice areas. To meet with a lawyer, call (608) 348-9506.