Easy Ways to Help Avoid Probate In Wisconsin

Feb 27, 2018

Will Trust Avoid Probate

Probate is the legal process for determining heirs, paying creditors and distributing assets of the deceased. The property is accounted for, the debts are paid, and then the remaining assets are distributed according to the Last Will and Testament, or according to state law if there is no will. (Read our blog titled “What Happens If You Die Without a Will?) In the State of Wisconsin, a person’s estate is required to go through the probate system if the gross amount of assets at the time of death is $50,000 or more.

Depending on your situation and circumstances, there are different options available to help lower the amount of assets that are subject to probate. In some cases, you may be able to completely avoid the probate process by doing some of the following:

Payable on Death on Your Bank Accounts

You can place a payable on death designation on your bank accounts for savings and checking accounts or certificates of deposits. The person or persons you designate have no access or control of your accounts until you pass. Upon your passing, they will just need to provide the bank with a death certificate and the accounts will be transferred into their names and not be counted towards your estate’s assets.

Beneficiary on Retirement Accounts

For many retirement accounts you are able to name a beneficiary. A beneficiary is someone who will receive the accounts if you pass away. By naming a beneficiary, your retirement account will transfer to the beneficiary and not be counted towards your estate’s assets.

Beneficiary on Life Insurance

Placing a beneficiary on your life insurance policy will allow the life insurance to pass to whomever you choose without having to go through the probate process. Again, by naming a beneficiary, your life insurance will transfer to the beneficiary and not be counted towards your estate’s assets.

Joint Ownership

Titling property as joint tenants can be used when there are two or more owners. The joint tenants own the property equally. Property owned in joint tenancy passes directly to the survivor. Marital Property with Rights of Survivorship is a type of joint tenancy, but can only be used by spouses. Most property can be held as joint tenants including home, cars and bank accounts.

Transfer On Death Deed

In the state of Wisconsin, you can use a Transfer on Death Deed to transfer your real estate to your beneficiary at the time of your death. The deed is executed and filed with the Register of Deeds now, but does not take effect until the time of your death.

Life Estate Deed

A life estate deed transfers ownership of your real estate to whomever you choose now, but reserves your right to live or use the real estate for the remainder of your life. Since you transfer the real estate now, it is not an asset of yours at the time of your death so it will not be a part of your estate.

Revocable Trust

Depending on the amount of your assets and circumstances, a revocable trust might be the best way for you to avoid probate. Assets in a trust pass to your beneficiaries without going through the probate process. For revocable trust to be beneficial, all assets need to be transferred into the Trust. To find more about revocable trusts, read our blog titled, “What is a Revocable Trust, and Do I Need One?


Estate Planning now can save you and your loved ones a significant amount of money later. Remember, laws change and not all of these options are right for everyone. Pedersen Law Office, LLC offers free consults in all of our areas of practice and will meet with you personally to discuss your specific circumstances and see what options are right for you. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.

Category: Wills & Trusts

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