Probate is a court-supervised process that takes place after someone dies and transfers property ownership from a decedent to heirs-at-law or those named in a will; it is necessary for properly transferring ownership. Probate also protects the rights of spouses and minor children, gives creditors a chance to get paid, and provides a time and place for paying taxes. The rules are based on state law, and therefore vary from state to state. Some states, including Wisconsin, have provisions for informal or do-it-yourself probate. The process requires paperwork and court appearances by lawyers.
There are different types of probate procedures in Wisconsin:
In the formal proceedings of an ordinary estate administration, an attorney represents the personal representative in the court proceeding and follows the steps necessary for probate. The attorney does all the work in the personal representative’s name.
In informal administration, the personal representative carries out all of the responsibilities identified in the will. The clerk administers the proceeding and unless there is a contested issue, there are no hearings before the court, making the informal process the most cost-effective method.
Motor Vehicle Transfer to Surviving Spouse
A simple procedure allows transferring to a surviving spouse a title of not more than five motor vehicles less than 20 years old any number of vehicles 20 years old or older.
Termination of Joint Tenancy and Marital Survivorship Ownership
A simplified procedure is provided to terminate a joint tenancy with a surviving joint tenant. This procedure also applies for terminating ownership of survivorship marital property with a surviving spouse. This applies to property such as stock certificates, bonds, checking and savings accounts, and all real estate in Wisconsin.
Transfer by Affidavit
This method is available when a decedent leaves solely owned property in Wisconsin that does not exceed $50,000 in value including real estate.
Summary Settlement or Assignment
For estates where the value of assets does not exceed $50,000 or does not exceed costs, expenses, family allowances, and certain preferred claims.