Difference Between Informal and Formal Probate

Apr 28, 2020


Dealing with the death of a loved one can cause a wide range of emotions, even when death is expected. You may not be prepared for the severity or length of time of the grieving process. Trying to figure out what you need to do when a loved one passes away during this time can be overwhelming. Having a basic understanding of the different types of estate administration now, instead of when you are grieving can be beneficial.

No Probate Required

In the State of Wisconsin, if the assets of the Estate do not exceed $50,000, it is not necessary to probate the estate. You can use Summary Settlement, Summary Assignment or Transfer By Affidavit to settle the estate. The most common is Transfer By Affidavit. To find out what assets are part of the estate and more about these types of administration please check out our blog, “Small Estates In Wisconsin.”

If the assets of the estate are over $50,000, the estate will be required to go through Informal Probate or Formal Probate. Both are supervised by the probate court and appoint a Personal Representative to handle the estate. Let’s explore the difference between the two types of administration.

Informal Probate

Informal probate is the most common form of probate. Informal probate is supervised by the Register in Probate, not a Judge. Typically, there are no court hearings. Informal probate is less time consuming and cost less money than formal probate. It is advised to use an attorney to help you through the process, but not required. An estate can go through the informal probate process if the loved one passed away with a will appointing a personal representative or all beneficiaries were willing to sign waivers appointing the same personal representative.

Formal Probate

Formal probate is supervised by a Circuit Court Judge and requires the assistance of an attorney. The estate must go through formal probate if your loved one passed away without a will and you were unable to get all beneficiaries to sign waivers appointing the same personal representative. The judge will then rule on who should be appointed as personal representative. Formal probate is also required if the validity or existence of the will is contested. If contested issues arise during informal proceedings, the estate will have to be switched to formal administration.


If you have already dealt with the death of a loved one, you know how difficult it can be, especially if they died without leaving a will. Understand the different types of estate administration and proper estate planning can eliminate the added cost, time, and stress of the formal probate process. Pedersen Law Office, LLC offers free consults in all our areas of practice and will meet with you personally to discuss your specific circumstances and goals. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.

Category: Wills & Trusts

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