My name is Tari Engels, and I am the Register in Probate for Iowa County. The Iowa County Probate Office is located at 222 N. Iowa St., Room 206, Dodgeville, WI 53533. The telephone number is (608) 935-0347.
The word “probate” describes the process of transferring certain property from a decedent to the heirs. Probate is not required in all deaths. Below are some questions you should answer before deciding if probate is required in your particular situation.
Is there a will? If there is a will, even if probate is not required, it must be filed with the Register in Probate within 30 days of the decedent’s death.
What assets does the decedent have? (ie. Real estate, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, vehicles).
How are the assets titled? (i.e. joint tenancy, solely owned, marital, payable on death).
What debts does the decedent have? (mortgage, credit cards, electric bill).
Who are the legal heirs and beneficiaries of the decedent?
Once the above questions are answered, they are used in determining the type of probate procedure that may be used. There are a number of probate procedures, including:
Transfer by Affidavit ($50,000 and Under). Transfer by Affidavit is used for solely owned property within this state valued under $50,000. Any heir may collect and transfer the solely owned assets by completing an affidavit in duplicate. The original form must be sent via certified mail to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. The signed return receipt, along with the duplicate form, must be presented to holder of the asset(s) 20 days after the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services has signed the return receipt. This is not filed with the circuit court.
Summary Settlement and Summary Assignment. These two types of probate are used when the decedent is survived by a spouse and/or minor child(ren) (Summary Settlement), or if there is no spouse (Summary Assignment). The value of the estate cannot exceed $50,000 after the expenses are paid. Summary Settlement does not require publication, but Summary Assignment does.
Termination of Joint Tenancy. This is a form of probate whereby the surviving joint tenant must free the joint property from any tax claims and has to get the property into his/her own name. This can be done in two ways. The first way is handled by attorneys and approved by the Court. The second way is by contacting the Register of Deeds office for a form entitled “Termination of Decedent’s Property Interest (HT-110)”. You may contact the Register of Deeds office at (608) 935-0396 for more information on this form.
Formal Probate. This may be used if the decedent has $50,000 or more of assets. An attorney must be used, and all hearings are held in front of the circuit court judge. An Inventory must be filed, a notice is published in the newspaper, and the court insures that the matter is completed in a timely and proper manner.
Informal Probate. Informal Probate may be used if there are $50,000 or more of assets, and the will does not prohibit its use. An attorney is not required but may be used. All parties must agree to use this procedure, and any party at any time may petition the court for Formal Administration (an attorney must be hired and all hearings are held in front of the circuit court judge). An Inventory must be exhibited, and a notice is published in the newspaper. The personal representative is responsible for making sure all aspects of the administration are completed in a timely and proper manner.
What should I know about being personal representative?
First of all, a statement in a will about who should serve as personal representative does not automatically allow you to start performing the duties of a personal representative; the statement in the will is merely a nomination by the decedent. The Court must appoint you before you assume the duties of a personal representative. The document that shows others you are appointed is Domiciliary Letters.
Serving as personal representative is a VERY important job. You will be required to take an oath that you will uphold the law and you may be required to post a bond to protect the assets in the estate if you do not do your job appropriately. You must keep all interested parties informed of the status of the estate proceedings and complete the estate in a timely fashion.
For all practical purposes, a personal representative is acting in place of the decedent. You are expected to handle the assets of the decedent just as any prudent person would handle their own assets.
Your duties will include taking possession of all the decedent’s assets and filing an inventory including the date of death values of all assets you have in your control (the inventory must be filed within 6 months of the filing of the Petition for Administration). You will be starting a checking account where you can keep accurate records of income and expenses. You will give notice to creditors and may give notice to interested persons by publication in the newspaper. (The Dodgeville Chronicle is the official Iowa County newspaper.)
You may be liquefying assets, selling real estate, running a business, insuring and keeping property in good repair. You will collect any income due to the decedent like interest, dividends, rent, etc. You will pay bills, settle proper claims or object to claims that are not appropriate.
There may be final and fiduciary tax returns to complete. You may be required to file a closing certificate for fiduciaries from the Department of Revenue. You are encouraged to utilize the services of a competent tax preparer or an attorney to help you with this aspect of the estate.
You may be required to file a final accounting showing all money that came in to the estate between the date of death and distribution and all money that went out of the estate. You will distribute assets according to the will and/or statues and secure receipts from those receiving assets.
What will the Register in Probate do to help the personal representative probate the estate?
a. Provide the probate forms, for a fee;
(All forms may be found on the internet, site http://www.courts.state.wi.us/circuit/search_forms.html)
She cannot and will not:
FEES: All fees are in accord with Section 814.66 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
There is a filing fee for probate. If the deceased has assets of $10,000 or less, the fee is $20.00. If the deceased has over $10,000 in assets, the fee is .2% of the gross estate, less any liens. I.E., if a ward has $55,000 in assets, the fee is $110.00 ($55,000 x .002).
If the Register in Probate makes any copies for you, a $1.00 per page copy fee will be imposed. A certification is $3.00.
- A creditor has 3 months from the date the Notice of Creditors is signed to file a claim against the estate.
- The inventory must be filed within 6 months of the filing of the Petition for Administration.
- An estate must be closed within 12 months of the filing of the Petition for Administration, unless the personal representative petitions the court for additional time in which to close the estate.
Beneficiary: A person named in the will to receive an interest in property from a decedent; sometimes referred to as legatee.
Bequest and Devise: Used in a will to grant an interest in property.
Codicil: A written document made by the deceased changing an existing will.
Decedent: The one who has died whose estate is subject to administration.
Heir: A person, including a surviving spouse, who under state law is entitled to an interest in property of the decedent.
Interested Person: Includes one or more of the following: 1) an heir of the deceased if named in the will or not; 2) a beneficiary named in the will which may include a beneficiary of a trust and a nominated trustee; 3) the personal representative named in the will.
Intestate: An estate left by a person who died without a will. Distribution of assets follows the statutes of intestate succession.
Issue: Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.
Per Stirpes: Property is divided into equal shares for the decedent’s children; children of a deceased child share their parent’s share (i.e. by right of representation).
Personal Representative: A person nominated in a will to administer estate affairs in probate proceedings; sometimes known as executor (male) or executrix (female).
Probate: A court-supervised process to: 1) transfer assets of a decedent to heirs or beneficiaries; 2) determine and pay federal and state taxes; and 3) give notice to creditors.
Probate Registrar: The administrative officer appointed in each county to supervise informal probate.
Testate: An estate left by a person who died with a will. Distributions of assets follow the will.
Testamentary Trust: An arrangement outlined in a will in which one party (sometimes a bank) holds and distributes property for the benefit of another.
Will: A document properly executed prior to death that directs distribution of property after death, nominates who will care for and distribute property. It may nominate someone to care for minor children and/or handle assets in a testamentary trust.
Adults and children may be adopted. This will focus on a child adoption. You may find additional information in Section 48.81 – 48.978 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
The Court of the county where the proposed adoptive parent or child resides, upon the filing of a petition for adoption or for the adoptive placement of a child, has jurisdiction over the child until the petition is withdrawn, denied or granted. Venue shall be in the county where the proposed adoptive parent or child resides at the time the petition is filed. The Court may transfer the case to a court in the county in which the proposed adoptive parents reside.
Upon the filing of a “Petition for Adoption”, the Court shall schedule a date and time for hearing within 90 days of the filing. Notice of the hearing shall be mailed to the guardian of the child, if any, and to the agency making the investigation.
The following documents must be filed prior to an adoption being completed:
There is no filing fee for adoptions in Iowa County, but on the date of the final hearing, the parties are required to pay a filing fee for the State of Wisconsin. The filing fee is $20.00. If the parties are requesting a certified copy of the birth certificate, it is $20.00 for the first copy, and $3.00 for each additional copy.
This is a brief explanation of some of the Register in Probate’s responsibilities. If you have specific questions, please call our office at (608) 935-0347. As stated above, this office cannot give legal advice. There are many attorneys in the area that can give legal advice, and a listing of attorney’s will be provided upon request.
A guardian is one who has the care of the person or property of another. Persons who may be eligible for guardianship are developmentally disabled, incompetent, a minor, a spendthrift, or have the infirmities of aging. A guardian is appointed by the court to take care of the “person” and/or the “estate” (i.e. property) of a ward.
The guardian of the person makes decisions relating to the physical placement of the ward, the medical treatment and control over the daily life of the ward.
The guardian of the estate takes possession of the ward’s property, provides an inventory to the court of that property, and provides yearly annual accounts to the court of how the ward’s assets have been maintained and spent. The guardian of the estate must protect and preserve the property of the ward while taking into account the best interests and needs of the ward.
Sometimes a ward must be “protectively placed” as they may be a danger to themselves or others. A protective placement is a placement of a ward for the primary purpose of providing care and custody. To be eligible for placement, an individual shall have attained the age of 18, but an individual who is alleged to be developmentally disabled may receive placement upon attaining the age of 14. No protective placement under this section may be ordered unless there is a determination of incompetency in accordance with Ch. 54, except in the case of a minor who is alleged to be developmentally disabled, and there is a finding of a need for protective placement. No guardian may make a permanent protective placement of his or her ward unless ordered by a court.
If a ward is protectively placed, the Court must review that placement every year. A social worker sends a report to the court, who then appoints a guardian ad litem to meet with the ward. After the court receives a written recommendation from the guardian ad litem, a hearing is held to see if the present placement should continue, or if a more (or less) restrictive placement should be implemented. This process is called a WATTS Review, and is mandated by the Wisconsin Legislature.
There are two agencies in Iowa County who may assist you in deciding if a guardianship pertains in your situation.
Iowa County Department of Social Services
303 W. Chapel St.
Dodgeville, WI 53533
Unified Community Services
1122 Professional Drive
Dodgeville, WI 53533
Another resource for guardians is the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups at the Elder Law Center, 2850 Dairy Drive, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53718-6751. Telephone number (608) 224-0660 or 1-800-488-2596. Their toll-free telephone Hotline receives over 2,000 calls a year, and they provide state-wide training on issues relating to guardianships, protective placements, and advance directives. They provide legal information and resources, not legal advice.
Other resources: private attorneys, the Bureau of Quality Assurance, and the ombudsman at the care facility.
There is a filing fee for guardianships. If a ward has assets of $10,000 or less, the fee is $20.00. If a ward has over $10,000 in assets, the fee is .2% of the gross estate. I.E., if a ward has $55,000 in assets, the fee is $110.00 ($55,000 x .002).
Agency: any public or private board, corporation or association which is concerned with the specific needs and problems of mentally retarded, developmentally disabled, mentally ill, alcoholic, drug dependent and aging persons.
Developmentally disabled person: Any individual having a disability attributable to mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism or another neurological condition closely related to mental retardation or requiring treatment similar to that required to mentally retarded individuals, which has continued or can be expected to continue indefinitely, substantially impairs the individual from adequately providing for his or her own care or custody and constitutes a substantial handicap to the afflicted individual. The term does not include a person affected by senility, which is primarily caused by the process of aging or the infirmities of aging.
Guardian: One appointed by a court to have care, custody and control of the person of a minor or an incompetent or the management of the estate of a minor, an incompetent or a spendthrift.
Incompetent: A person adjudged by a court of record to be substantially incapable of managing his or her property or caring for him/herself by reason of infirmities of aging, developmental disabilities or other like incapacities. Physical disability without mental incapacity is not sufficient to establish incompetence.
Infirmities of aging: Organic brain damage caused by advanced age or other physical degeneration in connection therewith to the extent that the person so afflicted is substantially impaired in his or her ability to adequately provide for his or her own care or custody.
Interested persons: Any adult relative or friend of a person to be protected under this subchapter; or any official or representative of a public or private agency, corporation or association concerned with the welfare of the person who is to be protected.
Minor: A person who has not attained the age of 18 years.
Not competent to refuse psychotropic medication: Because of chronic mental illness, as defined in s. 51.01(3g), and after the advantages and disadvantages of any alternatives to accepting the particular psychotropic medication have been explained to an individual, one of the following is true:
Other like incapacities: Those conditions incurred at any age which are the result of accident, organic brain damage, mental or physical disability, continued consumption or absorption of substances, producing a condition which substantially impairs an individual from providing for the individual’s own care or custody.
Spendthrift: A person who because of the use of intoxicants or drugs or of gambling, idleness or debauchery or other wasteful course of conduct is unable to attend to business or thereby is likely to affect the health, life or property of the person or others so as to endanger the support of the person and the person’s dependents or expose the public to such support.
Ward: a subject for whom a guardian has been appointed.
222 N. Iowa St.
Dodgeville, WI 53533