Milwaukee Probate Law
When a loved one passes away, his or her estate often goes through a court-supervised process called probate where the assets of the decedent are managed and distributed. The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate and the local rules and schedule of the probate court. The ultimate purpose of the probate process is to be sure that a decedent’s property is distributed to the proper beneficiaries either pursuant to the terms of a Will or, if there is no Will, pursuant to the laws of intestacy.
In many cases today, it is not necessary to probate a Will or an estate either because the value of the assets involved do no require it or the decedent’s property is transferred by non-probate procedures. Certain types of property, called “non-probate property” do not have to go through probate. These include:
- Property for which title is held as “joint tenants with right of survivorship,” passes to the co-owners by operation of law
- Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where designated beneficiaries exist
- Life insurance policies with named beneficiaries
- Bank accounts set up as POD (payable on death) accounts
- Real estate with a TOD (transfer on death) designation
- Property owned by a living trust. Legal title to such property passes to successor trustees
Every probate estate is unique but most involve the following steps:
- Filing of a petition with the proper probate court.
- Notice to heirs under the Will or to statutory heirs (if no Will exists).
- Petition to appoint a Personal Representative for the estate.
- Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Personal Representative.
- Payment of estate debts to proper creditors.
- Sale of estate assets if necessary.
- Payment of estate taxes, if applicable.
- Final distribution of assets to heirs.