Probate is most commonly understood to mean a court-involved administration of a deceased person’s estate. But for our purposes, it also includes other post-death matters, such as Transfers by Affidavit, special administration, trust administration and processing of beneficiary specifications.
Whether a deceased person’s estate requires a court-involved administration through probate is dependent upon the total value of the deceased person’s solely-owned assets at the time of death is $50,000.00 or more.
Solely-owned assets include those that (1) are in the deceased person’s name alone or held by the deceased person as Tenants in Common or (2) do not have a specified beneficiary. An asset that is owned as joint tenants or that has a specified beneficiary is not a solely-owned asset and thus is not subject to a probate administration.
As an example, let’s take a traditional asset, a house titled as “Paul and Sara Eberhardy, husband and wife” or “Paul and Sara Eberhardy, as joint tenants” or “Paul and Sara Eberhardy, as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.” This is considered to be a jointly-held asset, not subject to a probate administration. If that same asset, the house, was titled in only the name of “Paul Eberhardy”, even if he is married at the time of his death, the asset is a solely-owned asset and may be subject to a probate administration. Similarly, if the house is titled as “Paul and Sara Eberhardy, as tenants in common”, this is a solely-owned asset to each of them and thus may be subject of a probate administration when each of them passes away.
A court-involved probate administration involves the appointment of an individual as the Personal Representative. That Personal Representative is responsible for identifying, marshaling, administering, accounting for and distributing those estate assets consistent with the deceased person’s Last Will and Testament (“Will”) or, if there is no Will, with Wisconsin law.
If the total of solely-owned assets is less than $50,000.00, a probate administration is not required. Instead, a Transfer by Affidavit may be appropriate. This is a non-court-involved administration.
Assets with a specified beneficiary may require the preparation and submission of various forms.
Assets titled in the name of a trust, rather than in the deceased person’s name, will need to be administered in a manner that is consistent with the terms of the trust documents.
If there is a lack of information regarding the deceased person’s assets, such as the location of those assets or their respective values, a court-involved special administration may be utilized to appoint an individual to investigate what assets exist, how those assets are titled and the value of those assets so that a determination may be made about the correct post-death process to utilize.
Regardless of the process needed, we can help you through this process.