11 Dec 0
Probate is the legal process through which a person’s assets are transferred after their death. The procedure is supervised by a court of law and designed to protect anyone with a legal interest in the deceased person’s estate. Probate is used to distribute a decedent’s assets not only to beneficiaries, but also to creditors and taxing authorities.
The estate lawyers of Elder Law Center of Wisconsin are versed in all areas of probate, wills, estate planning, and trusts and can assist families through the lengthy probate process.
Any Wisconsin estate that exceeds $50,000 in value must go through the probate process unless the property is subject to certain exemptions such as jointly-titled assets, life insurance proceeds, retirement funds where a beneficiary other than the deceased person’s estate was chosen, and revocable living trust assets.
Elder Law Center of Wisconsin will identify all the assets of the person who died, manage those assets throughout the probate process, pay any outstanding debts, taxes or estate expenses, make any distributions that are required by state law, and distribute any remaining to the decedent’s heirs or designees.
In Wisconsin, the probate process may be either formal or informal. If the way in which an estate will be distributed is contested, a formal probate process must be used. If an estate goes through formal probate, the decedent’s personal representative must be represented by an attorney. When an estate is probated in an informal manner, however, it is also a good idea for a personal representative to consult with a Wisconsin estate planning lawyer. It is also advisable to have an experienced attorney attend any informal probate hearings.
Generally, any probate costs are paid for by the estate. Costs must also be approved by a court if the assets are distributed through a formal probate process. State and federal income taxes and any required estate taxes will also be paid from a decedent’s estate. In 2016, up to $5.45 million in assets are exempt from the federal estate tax. Currently, the State of Wisconsin does not collect an estate tax. Additionally, assets passing to a surviving spouse will normally be exempt from estate tax.
Although the Wisconsin law requires that probate be completed within 18 months, a court may choose to grant an extension. On average, probate in Wisconsin takes no less than six months. Rely on Elder Law Center of Wisconsin to be on your side through the lengthy process.
The probate process must allow time for creditors to be notified, file required income tax returns, and resolve any disputes. Funeral costs have priority in settling a probate case followed by taxing authorities, secured creditors and unsecured creditors who have made a claim. Careful advance planning, including having a living trust in place, may reduce or eliminate the need for your loved ones to wait for the probate process to conclude.
For more information on the probate process or creating a living trust, contact the experienced probate and trust administration lawyers of Elder Law Center of Wisconsin.