As an estate planning attorney, I know that a common goal for my estate planning clients is to avoid probate. “Probate” refers to the Court-supervised process of accounting for and distributing property owned individually by a decedent at the time of the decedent’s death.
How to Avoid Probate in Wisconsin: A Will is not the Answer
There is a common misconception that having a will allows you to avoid probate. This is not correct. Having a will has no effect on whether or not your estate will go through probate. It simply means that, if there is a probate, your will controls to whom your assets are distributed. In addition, you can nominate your personal representative (also known as an executor) and a guardian for any minor children in your will. If you do not have a will, there may still be assets that are subject to probate, but the distribution of those assets is governed by state law known as the “laws of intestacy.”
What is Probate?
The probate process terminates the decedent’s interest in the property title in his or her sole name, and vests title in the beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will, or to the decedent’s heirs if there is no will. It also protects the recipients of the assets from future claims of the decedent’s creditors by giving notice to the creditors, providing a forum and process for the decedent’s debts to be paid, and establishing a deadline by which all claims against the estate must be made. Though some probates are rather simple, they can also be costly and time-consuming, which is why so may people try to avoid having their assets pass through the probate process. An estate planning lawyer is often hired to handle the probate, reducing the amount available for the heirs or beneficiaries. If you plan ahead, however, an estate planning lawyer can advise you as to how to avoid probate in Wisconsin.
Wondering How to Avoid Probate in Wisconsin?
There are many types of assets that do not go through probate in Wisconsin, such as:
- Assets with beneficiary designations, such as life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities (NOTE: if you name your “Estate” as the beneficiary, the asset WILL have to go through probate!)
- Assets titled as joint tenants with another person(s)
- Survivorship marital property
- Property titled in a revocable trust
- Assets with a “Pay on Death” (POD) or “Transfer on Death” (TOD) designation (which can include real estate)
- Property transferred under a marital property agreement
Consult with an Estate Planning Lawyer to Learn How to Avoid Probate in Wisconsin
If you don’t have an estate plan, or want to review your existing plan to find out if there techniques you can use to avoid probate, our estate planning attorney, Mary John, can assist you. All of our estate planning matters are handled on a flat-fee basis, so you know exactly what the cost will be before you decide to proceed. In addition to drafting any necessary documents, Mary will advise you as to things you can do on your own to avoid probate. Learn how to avoid probate in Wisconsin: If you have questions about estate planning or how to avoid probate in Wisconsin, call our law office for a free telephone consultation. Call 715.843.6700 to find out how to avoid probate in Wisconsin. Get more information about the probate process in Wisconsin.
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