Estate Planning, Probate and Wills
One of the most effective ways to avoid the stress of probate law is to hire a skilled Fond du Lac estate planning lawyer who can be thorough in helping you plan ahead. Still, if disputes arise down the line, your lawyer should have the knowledge you need to get things done right while saving you valuable time and money in probate proceedings. At AA Sabel Law Office, S.C., we can provide valuable mediation and negotiation representation, or represent you in court. We are here to ease the burden of estate planning and probate law by helping you understand the legal implications of your situation so that you can make the best decisions for you and your loved ones.
Come to us for representation in the complex details of:
• Estate planning: No estate is too big or too small for thorough estate planning to be valuable. Everyone is likely to have some amount of property, debts or health care needs that should be detailed in wills, living wills, powers of attorney, health care directives and Title 19 nursing home planning. Our office can help you organize these important details and much more with attention to your individual needs.
• Informal probates: Most people can handle probates through an informal probate process, meaning court supervision is not required to settle an estate. This kind of proceeding is generally preferred to formal probates as courtroom fees are kept to a minimum and the probate is handled primarily through the filing of paperwork.
• Formal probates: Some probate law issues will require going to court. This is called a "formal probate" and is usually the result of someone filing a claim against the estate, associated personal injury or wrongful death claims, disputes among heirs or needing court permission to have access to certain estate accounts. In any dispute, we work hard to keep courtroom supervision to a minimum in an effort to keep costs low. Still, we are willing and able to be assertive and confident in standing up for you so you achieve the best outcome possible.
Probate Law FAQ
What is probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process with three goals:
(1) to transfer a deceased person's assets to the legal heirs or beneficiaries named in the will;
(2) to determine and pay federal and Wisconsin estate and income taxes; and
(3) to determine creditor's claims.
There are several different types of probate proceedings, depending upon the size and complexity of the estate. "Formal" administration is supervised by the probate judge while "informal" administration is supervised by the Register in probate
What is a personal representative?
A personal representative is an individual or corporation named in a will or appointed by the court to oversee the probate of an estate. The main duties of a personal representative are to:
• Identify and collect the assets of the deceased
• Manage the assets during the administration of the estate
• Determine the rights of any surviving spouse under marital property laws
• Pay expenses of administration, taxes, debts and claims; and
• Distribute the remaining assets to those entitled to receive them.
How much does a personal representative get paid?
The personal representative is entitled to be reimbursed for all necessary expenses in managing and settling the estate, subject to court approval. Besides expenses, the personal representative can receive 2 percent of the inventory value of property for which the personal representative is accountable (less any mortgags or liens) or such other amount as may be either agreed to by the decedent or beneficiaries or approved by the court.
How are attorneys paid for probate matters?
The fees charged in probate matters vary from attorney to attorney. Lawyers may charge on an hourly or fixed-fee basis. Attorney fees must be approved by the judge in formal probate proceedings.
Does probate involve any tax decisions?
Yes. Federal and Wisconsin estate and income tax planning may be involved in an estate. The size of the estate may not be what determines the tax decisions to be made. You should discuss probate-related tax issues with a lawyer.
How are estate taxes determined?
The federal and Wisconsin estate taxes are applied to the taxable value of a person's total property at death. The personal representative must pay these taxes from the estate within nine months of the date of death. In general, there are no estate taxes due on property distributed to a surviving spouse. In addition, some amount of assets are exempt from the federal estate tax, and legislation pending in Congress may increase this amount. Wisconsin inheritance tax was abolished for persons dying after Jan. 1, 1992.
Can you avoid probate?
You may avoid probate in certain instances. For example, no probate is necessary if individually owned property is no more than $50,000 in value. Property titled in joint ownership or in a "living" trust is not subject to probate. Property received by a beneficiary designation is not subject to probate either. However, even though probate is not required, you may have to report and pay federal (and possibly Wisconsin) estate taxes.
Disclaimer: This summary offers basic legal information only and does not offer legal advice. If you have legal problems, please seek legal advise; only an attorney can advise you on how the law applies to the specific facts of your situation and in your location.