Probate Attorneys in Green Bay, Wisconsin
When someone dies they cease to be able to act financially. Their real estate cannot be sold and in many cases, their accounts and assets are unavailable without a domiciliary letter or other evidence of court approval. This process can be confusing. We are here to help.
Probate administration is a process that most people are unfamiliar with. And, if you’ve found yourself named as the personal representative in a will or a beneficiary in someone's estate, you’ll want to educate yourself about this process so you know what’s expected of you during this process.
For help with probate estate administration or any aspect of estate planning, reach out to us at Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC. Our offices are located in Howard on the west side of Green Bay, Wisconsin, but we’re able to represent clients throughout Northeast Wisconsin including all of Brown, Oconto, Shawano, Kewaunee, Waupaca, and Door Counties as well.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process in which wills are “proven” in court, meaning their provisions and contents are verified and they are admitted to administration. The personal representative (formerly referred to as an executor) named in the will, works with the court and is responsible for this process which can take a year or more to complete. It's important to note, not all assets must go through the probate court when someone passes away. This is dependent on how the deceased person has structured their affairs during their lifetime.
If they have assets they’ve placed in a living trust, these will not have to go through probate and can instead be transferred directly to the assigned beneficiary by the trustee.
Alternatively, if the deceased had assets held jointly (such as a home purchased with someone else or a retirement fund held jointly with a spouse), those assets can also transfer directly without going through probate.
For assets that have no beneficiary designation, these assets will generally have to go through the probate process. This process can be time-consuming and stressful for the surviving family members. We are here to help you with this process.
If you are faced with an uncertain probate process, you should consider hiring a probate attorney who can work with you to ensure all the steps are completed accurately and efficiently while saving you time and money.
Probate in Wisconsin
Each state sets its own guidelines for probate, and in Wisconsin, the law states that any estate worth more than $50,000 must go through this process. For estates below this threshold, assets can simply be distributed by the executor without involving the courts. Most counties require probate to be completed within 12- 18 months after a person's date of death.
Furthermore, the state also regulates how much the executor is able to charge in fees, and this is typically set at 2% of the total value of the probate estate less any mortgage liabilities. Executors are not required to be paid for their time, but they are allowed to use funds from the estate to reimburse themselves for reasonable expenses incurred to complete this work and to pay for estate attorney fees.
But what happens when someone dies without a will? This is known as dying intestate. The state has a statute that tells us who should receive property when someone dies without a will. We can review the intestacy process with you to ensure that you understand what will happen.
The Probate Process
If the person died with a will in place, they have normally named a personal representative to act on behalf of their estate. If they didn’t name anyone or if they died intestate, the court will appoint someone to act, this is usually a surviving spouse or close family member such as an adult child or a sibling.
This person is responsible for locating, inventorying, and assessing all the assets in the estate as well as contacting all creditors and named beneficiaries. They must allow enough time for creditors to come forward to collect on debts (usually four to six months). Outstanding debts as well as any back taxes must be paid from funds in the estate before any other items can be distributed to their heirs.
The personal representative must work closely with the courts to ensure this process is completed in accordance with state and local laws and that any debts or challenges to the will are thoroughly examined and addressed. Executors often choose to work with a probate attorney during this time to help stay organized and remain in compliance with the court's procedures.
Serving Green Bay, Wisconsin
If you’re in the Green Bay, Wisconsin, area and would like to speak with an experienced attorney about the probate process, reach out to us today at Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC.