Dying Without a Will: 4 Things to Know in Wisconsin

dying without a will

When someone dies without a will, the question eventually is asked, “who receives the deceased’s estate?” Wisconsin has  intestacy laws that dictate who receives the deceased’s assets when there is no will. (This is one of the key reasons to draft a will; a person can name beneficiaries to receive assets.) This post highlights key points that family members should know about the situation when a person dies without a will. For information specific to the exact situation, consult an  experienced estate planning lawyer.

The exact distribution of the assets depends on the spouse and descendants.

When a deceased person is survived by a spouse and descendants, it is important to know the difference between community and separate property. Community property applies to assets acquired during the marriage (with a few exceptions). Separate property might include assets acquired before the marriage or by inheritance.

There are several inheritance situations that apply when a deceased’s spouse and children are alive:

  • If there is only a spouse, the probate estate goes to the spouse.
  • If the descendants are the deceased’s and spouse’s, the probate estate goes to the spouse.
  • If the descendants are the deceased’s, but not the deceased’s and spouse’s, the probate estate is split between the spouse and the descendants.

Descendants eligible to receive the deceased’s estate include biological and adopted children. Stepchildren not legally adopted by the deceased and biological children adopted by another party are not included in the estate distribution.

There is a procedure for situations where the deceased is not married.

When the deceased is not married and does not have any descendants, there are two common inheritance situations:

  • If the deceased is survived by their parents, the parents inherit the probate estate.
  • If the deceased is not survived by their parents but is survived by their siblings, the siblings inherit the probate estate.

There are exceptions to these situations, such as if a relative intentionally causes the deceased’s death or does not live 120 hours after the deceased’s death. To see if other exceptions apply, you should speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer.

Some assets may not be included in the estate.

Not all assets are part of the inheritance. If the asset is part of a living trust or is an asset with a named beneficiary, the asset goes to the named beneficiary. Some real estate, 401Ks, and other accounts may not follow intestate succession.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

Time for a Will? 5 Things You Need to Get Started

Estate planning worksheet for writing a willIt’s never too late (or too early) to get a will drafted for the good of you and your family. A will is one of the most important (or the most important) documents in your estate plan, both for asset distribution and as direction during very difficult time. This significant estate planning document can also become a vehicle for organizing your assets in preparation for the next phase of your life (i.e. establishing a trust, etc.) Because of its importance, it’s not a document to procrastinate drafting or to draft using a generic template.

Instead, contact a local lawyer who can produce a legal document in line with local and state regulations and conditions. To make the process extremely efficient, have these key pieces of information ready for the lawyer and for inclusion in your will.

List of assets

Not every asset needs to be included in your will, but you should have major assets listed. Do an inventory of your assets (including bank accounts, lock box contents, items in safe, properties, etc.), and be prepared to give your lawyer a list of major assets.

Beneficiaries

Once you’ve compiled a list of assets, it’s time to decide who gets them when you pass. Your lawyer needs a list of beneficiaries and their personal information (i.e. social security numbers, address, etc.) If you want to be very precise about certain items and who receives them, decide that information before you visit your attorney so you can provide very exact directions in your will.

Executor

An executor is named in your will to carry out your instructions. For that reason, choose your executor carefully; your executor should be a responsible individual (not necessarily a family member) who can follow your instructions and deal with any estate issues that arise.

Guardian

If you have any minors in your care, you’ll need to name a guardian to care for them. Bring the name of the guardian, as well as personal information about the individual, so the person can be named. If you want to leave any assets for your minors’ care, spell out those instructions to your lawyer.

Any other instructions

Specific instructions, even if they don’t fit one of the above categories, should be included in your will. For example, if you don’t want certain family members named as beneficiaries, that should be spelled out so the courts don’t see it as an oversight.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.