Frequently Asked Questions
Wisconsin Statutes require all estates to be settled as soon as reasonably possible and without unnecessary delay. The Chief Judges have set twelve (12) months as the benchmark for disposing of probate cases. Therefore, probate cases are to be disposed of withing twelve (12) months of filing the case of initiation documents.
What is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process for the orderly transfer of a decedent's assets to those that are entitled to them. The process ensures that notice is properly given, that all debts, taxes, and expenses are paid, that the assets are distributed in accordance with the last Will or to the heirs as determined by statute. Reference the Probate section for additional information on common probate proceedings.
Are probate records on the internet?
Yes. Court records are available online at htt://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl. Probate records are open to the public. The record will show the name and case number of the estate, the name and the address of the personal representative, the name of the attorney, if any, any scheduled activities, and what has been filed to date.
What do I have to do when someone dies?
If the decedent left a Will, it must be filed with the Probate office within 30 days of death even if no probate proceeding is required. Complete and file with the Register in Probate office an Affidavit of No Probate form. The form can also be obtained in person at the Register of Probate office. If a probate proceeding will be initiated, file the original Will with those documents. If there was no Will, the statutes outline a priority system, called "intestate succession", which determines how the decedent's assets will be distributed.
How can I access standard court forms?
Standard, statewide forms are required by all Wisconsin Circuit Courts. Forms can be obtained in person form the Register in Probate office. There is a fee for some form packets. Forms can also be obtained onloine at Wisconsin Court System - Circuit Court Forms.
What are some types of probate procedures?
Informal Administration is the most commonly used procedure. In most cases, you do not need an attorney to proceed informally. Go to Probate for additional information.
Summary Settlement proceeding can be used whenever there is a surviving spouse or minor children and the estate, less the amount of the debts for which any property is security, does not exceed $50,000. It may also be used whenever the value of the estate does not exceed the priority debts (e.g., taxes, administrative, funeral and burial, last illness, spousal and family allowances). Go to Probate for additional information.
Summary Assignment can be used whenever the value of the estate, less the amount of the debts for which any property is security, does not exceed $50,000 and summary settlement does not apply. Go to Probate for additional information.
What if the decedent owned less than $50,000 in assets?
Form PR-1831 Transfer of Affidavit ($50,000 and under) can be obtained from the Register in Probate office. A guideline is available together with an Affidavit of No Probate form to file the original Will with the court. A guideline for the Affidavit of No Probate form is available.
If the decedent received some sort-of assistance, additional information may be found here.
Do I need a lawyer?
A lawyer is not required for Informal Probate or other proceedings. You may seek advise or the services of an attorney at any point during the process. A lawyer is required, however for Formal Probate proceedings. Probate office staff cannot give legal advice.
In Juvenile cases a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) will be appointed if the child is under 12. A Public Defender will provide counsel for children age 12 and over without indigence determination. A child over 15 may waive counsel if the Court accepts (unless Court places child out of the home).
Parents right to Counsel: May retain counsel at his/her own expense.
How can I file a claim against an estate?
There is a $3 filing fee to file a claim against an estate. Form-1819 Claim Against Estate is available from the Register in Probate office. There is a time limit for filing a claim based on when the probate action was started. You can check the court file in person or preview the case record on the internet to find out the claims deadline for a particular case.
What does the personal representative do?
The Personal Representative (PR) is the person nominated to administer the decedent's assets in an Informal or Formal proceeding. The PR cannot assume the duties until the Court appoints the PR. Duties and responsibilities include making and inventory of and managing the decedent's property; paying debts, administrative expenses and taxes and distributing the property to the heirs or beneficiaries. The PR has the duty to protect the property of the estate, administer and distribute estate assets in a diligent and timely manner according to statutory deadlines and file required tax returns for the decedent.
Can I obtain adoption records?
No. Adoption records are confidential. All search requests must go through the Adoption Record Search program
PO Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916