1. What do I have to do when someone passes away?
If the decedent left a Last Will and Testament, the original must be filed with the Register in Probate within 30 days of death even if no probate is required. If a probate proceeding is required, you can file the original Will when you file the initial probate documents.
2. What if there is no Will?
If the decedent did not leave a Last Will and Testament and probate is required, the rules of Intestate Succession apply. See Chapter 852 of the Wisconsin Statutes. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/852
3. Do I need a lawyer?
A lawyer is not required for Informal Probate or other proceedings. You may seek advice or the services of an attorney at any point during the process. A lawyer is required for Formal Probate proceedings. The Register in Probate's office cannot give legal advice.
4. How do I get a Domiciliary Letter?
Domiciliary Letters are issued by the probate court either upon the filing of all the documents required to initiate an informal probate proceeding, or after a hearing before the Circuit Judge or Probate Court Commissioner in a formal probate proceeding. The Domiciliary Letters show that the probate court has given the authority to the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate of the decedent and to perform all the duties required by law.
IMPORTANT: Please note that even though a person is nominated in a decedent's Will as personal representative, they do not have the authority to act until Domiciliary Letters have been granted to them by the probate court.
5. What is a personal representative?
A Personal Representative is the person nominated to administer the decedent's assets. The Personal Representative cannot assume the duties until appointed by the Court. Duties and responsibilities include making an inventory of the decedent's assets; paying the administrative expenses, debts and taxes of the decedent; and distributing the remaining property to the heirs or beneficiaries.
6. Are probate records open to the public?
Yes. Probate court records are available online at https://wcca.wicourts.gov. All probate records are open to the public unless sealed by a court order.