Having a will in Wisconsin can minimize the expense your family must pay to the court, fees for putting up a probate bond and associated expenses. These costs may take a large percentage of your estate, leaving your family without funds for other bills. The probate process can also take up to a year, leaving your property inaccessible to loved ones.
According to the American Bar Association, a will provides for the distribution of your property after your death, according to your wishes.
Who gets my property if I don’t have a will?
If you die without an official last will and testament, the state determines who receives your assets. Typically, your spouse and children inherit. If your children are minors, the state has protections specifically for them. The state chooses an executor for your estate based on its priority list and your living blood relatives.
The state has strict guidelines by which it adheres. If you have an unregistered domestic partner and die without a will, they cannot inherit, even if it is your wish. This holds true for friends as well.
Does a will cover my entire estate?
Your will covers assets held in your name only, with no beneficiary designation and no survivorship rights with joint tenants. These assets pass through probate, and beneficiaries receive them, per your will. Examples include stocks, bank accounts and real property titled in your name alone.
Non-probate assets have a beneficiary designation of their own. Your will does not affect these assets, and beneficiaries may claim them without going through probate. Assets categorized as non-probate include IRAs, 401(k)s and holdings with a transfer-on-death or pay-on-death designation.
Learn more about probate and how you can care for your loved ones after your pass, here.