Are you in the process of creating an estate plan? Are you reviewing a plan that you created in the past? Has a loved one recently passed? If you answered yes to any of these questions, there’s a good chance that you need to learn more about the probate process. This isn’t something that will excite you, but the details that you collect will go a long way in helping you better understand the future and how this process unfolds.
What is Probate?
While you may have heard this term in the past, it doesn’t mean you fully understand what it means. The American Bar Association defines probate as follows: “Probate is the formal legal process that gives recognition to a will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries.”
With this in mind, it’s important to note that the probate process differs from state to state. For this reason, you need to learn more about this on a state level, as that’s the only way to be fully prepared and/or to ensure that you are making all the right decisions.
Should You Avoid Probate?
As you create an estate plan, you’ll set out to accomplish many goals. For instance, you may begin to search for strategies to avoid probate. While this is easier said than done, it’s something you can do with the right approach. A living trust, for example, is the best way to help your estate avoid probate upon your death. There are three primary reasons to avoid probate:
- It can cost a lot of money.
- It can take up a lot of time.
- It is something your family may not be ready for after your passing.
With these reasons in mind, it’s only natural to seek ways to avoid probate or lessen the amount of assets that go through the process.
Top Probate Resources
At some point, you may realize that you need to learn more about probate. Some people find themselves in this situation as they create an estate plan and seek ways to avoid probate upon their death. Others need to learn more because a loved one has recently passed and there is no avoiding the probate process.
If you want to learn more about this, there are several high level resources that can point you in the right direction. You’ll want to spend some time reviewing these websites:
- State Bar of Wisconsin. On this website, you’ll find a variety of information pertaining to the probate process in Wisconsin. If you’re a resident of this state, the information will help you better understand the entire process. Furthermore, it addresses many of the most important questions.
- Wisconsin Court System. As a self-help law center, you can learn a lot about probate without contacting a legal professional. You’ll probably need professional help at some point in the future, but this is a good place to get your feet wet. For example, you can download court forms for probate actions.
- Wisconsin State Law Library. This is where you will find the most detailed information regarding probate in the state. It discusses every detail imaginable, broken down into the following sections: directory, forms, records, the law, estate taxes, and county resources.
- Nolo. This webpage provides state specific advice on how to avoid probate. It provides a basic overview of some of the many strategies to discuss with your attorney, including but not limited to living trusts and joint ownership.
- Dane County Clerk of Courts. If you live in Dane County, such as a resident of Madison, you should turn to this source for local information. The Dane County Clerk of Courts provides plenty of information on probate. In addition to contact information, there are links to many resources that could make your life easier.
As you can see, probate is a process that takes place on a local and state level. This is why you want to collect all your information and advice from local sources.
How to Get Help from an Estate Planning Attorney During this Time
Regardless of your situation, there is a lot that goes into probate. If you’re planning for the future, you must make sure you consider all your options. If you’re faced with probate right now, you should understand how the court system works.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact our law firm online or via phone at 800-431-9776. We know that you have many questions and concerns, and we are here to make sure you are taken care of from start to finish. Let us be your probate guide!