Settling a person’s affairs after he or she dies can be complicated and overwhelming for people who are also struggling with grief. However, there is a process in place to ensure everything is resolved properly and fairly: probate.
Probate is the legal process of transferring a person’s assets and paying his or her liabilities. The goal of probate is to shield the rights of heirs or beneficiaries who have a personal interest within the estate. Probate can also determine what taxes the estate owes and what belongs to creditors. Because of what it entails and what may be at stake, loved ones often want to know how long this process takes.
Unfortunately, there is no one answer when it comes to how long probate takes in Wisconsin. Broadly speaking, though, probate in Wisconsin can take upwards of 2 years. The speed of the process will vary based on numerous factors.
- The size of the estate – Generally speaking, probate will take longer for larger and more complex estates. This can be due to the number of parties involved, the complexity of paying taxes, the difficulty securing and appraising assets, and the increased potential for disputes to arise. If a family owned business is in the mix, that could complicate matters even more.
- How quickly everyone acts – Probate requires numerous parties to take specific actions, from creditors to the personal representative. The longer each party waits to act, the longer the process will take. Filing and responding to paperwork right away can have a marked impact on how swiftly the process moves.
- Whether parties are contentious or cooperative – Conflict and disputes can drag out probate. A person who contests a will or creditors who file illegitimate claims can create delays because they typically lead to additional motions and difficulty securing resolutions. Parties interested in expediting probate will therefore want to prioritize cooperation.
- The decedent’s estate planning efforts – If the decedent placed assets in a trust, created a will, and took steps to prevent doubt and confusion over his or her wishes, then the probate process can go much more quickly. If he or she took no such steps, loved ones can expect probate to take longer.
- Creditors - As mentioned, creditors need time to make claims against the estate, which can further increase the waiting period. Normally, creditors are informed of someone's death a few weeks after. They are then required to file claims within a 3 month period.
- Personal Representative - the personal rep is required to file any income tax returns that are still outstanding, as well as income tax returns for any income earned by the estate after the descendants death. Before the rep can close the probate, they must wait for tax closing letters from the Department of Revenue.
In most cases, Wisconsin probate will take less than a year. Though, again, there is no precise answer to how long probate will take. If you have questions about when you will receive an inheritance or what you can do to make the process go faster, you can discuss your specific case with a legal representative. We can help!