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Understanding the Differences Between Formal and Informal Probate

After a person passes away, his or her estate will likely go through probate. This is the legal process of validating a will (if one exists) and distributing the decedent’s property. To know what you can expect during this process, you should first understand that there are different types of probate.

In Wisconsin, two main types of probate include informal and formal administration.

Informal administration

Informal administration occurs without continuous court supervision. It is an option when a person passes away with a will naming a personal representative who accepts the role. The will must not prohibit such administration. If a person passes away without a will, informal administration can still occur if all interested parties agree to it and appoint the same personal representative.

During informal administration, the personal representative files documents without supervision from a judge. These include an application for informal administration, estate inventories, and a statement to close the estate. Generally, the process will take between six months and a year.

Parties can choose to have legal representation during this process.

Formal administration

Formal probate occurs under the continuous supervision of the courts, It is necessary when there is no will and a petitioner cannot secure permission from interested parties to pursue informal administration. It is also necessary when a person’s will requires the estate to go through formal administration.

This type of administration can take longer than informal administration. It can also be more contentious when interested parties do not agree. And while many people choose to have legal support during informal administration, an attorney must assist informal probate proceedings.

An attorney must assist in informal probate administration.

Other options for probate

These are just two main types of probate. There are others, including summary settlement, which can be used in cases involving estates valued at less than $60,000. The type that an individual estate will go through depends on numerous elements specific to the case.

The type of probate your loved one’s estate goes through will affect the legal process and the responsibilities of parties, including a personal representative. To better understand what this means for you, it can be wise to discuss specific cases with an experienced attorney.