When a loved one passes away, usually, their estate needs to go through probate. The probate process can take a little bit of time, but you need to be sure that the person’s assets and debts get properly accounted for and resolved. The executor or personal representative is the person in charge of handling probate. Many people wonder what the probate process is and what happens after probate in Wisconsin.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s estate after their death. Wisconsin statutes define probate as “the court-supervised process for the orderly transfer of a decedent’s assets to those who are entitled to receive them.” If the person had a will, probate will establish that it is valid. If a will designates a personal representative or administrator, the court will generally appoint that person. If there is no named executor, the court will appoint one. Generally, the probate process takes six to 12 months to complete if there are no objections.
Wisconsin law requires probate anytime there is an estate with a value of $50,000 or more, and there is a will. The will has to be authenticated to ensure that it is authentic. The basic requirements for a will in Wisconsin are set forth by law. The law states that a will must be made in writing, signed by the person making the will (the testator), and signed by two witnesses. A will can be self-proved by affidavit, and it is automatically considered authentic, and the process will thus be simplified.
The Probate Process
There are many tasks that the executor must complete as part of the probate process. They must determine and inventory assets, gather documents including the will, life insurance policies, deeds, and death certificate, identify beneficiaries, notify creditors, pay debts, manage finances, and work with the courts throughout the process. The law typically requires that the probate process is complete within 18 months. However, if there are complications, the court may allow an extension. An experienced probate attorney is helpful in assisting with probate in Wisconsin.
What Happens After Probate in Wisconsin?
After the administrator identifies assets and pays debts and taxes, the remaining property and assets can be distributed to the heirs. The administrator must complete the probate process and make sure that the debts are paid. Once probate is complete, the executor closes the estate. There is a waiting period of time that must be observed after probate is complete before the property can be distributed. This provides time to allow creditors and heirs to review probate paperwork.
In the event that additional assets are discovered, the administrator must notify the court. An heir may challenge the process if they believe mistakes were made. The heir must have grounds to challenge probate, such as they believe the administrator breached their fiduciary duty, documents were not valid, or documents were not properly interpreted. If there is a challenge, it can extend the time to distribute assets from the estate. Finally, the administrator can distribute the property and assets to the rightful heirs once probate is complete and there are no further objections.
The probate process can be complex, so it may be helpful to seek legal guidance. To learn more, contact us today at (608) 784-8310 or online to request a consultation.