To execute a will, you must follow proper procedures as outlined by the laws of Wisconsin. Mistakes can lead to an invalid will or will contestations. You do not want either of those outcomes because it means your wishes will not be fulfilled upon your death, your heirs may not receive what you intended them to receive, and your heirs may suffer a lot of headaches to fight for what is rightfully theirs.
At Heritage Law Office, we help our clients create strong, solid estate plans. Many of these estate plans include Wills. The execution of a Will is critical to its validity. To get started on creating or updating a Will, contact our estate planning attorney Wisconsin by calling us at 414-253-8500 or filling out our online contact form.
What is an Executor of a Will in Wisconsin?
An executor is a person whose primary role is to settle the estate of the decedent. In some states, this person is known as the “personal representative.” If the decedent died with a Will in place (testate), then the executor is to follow the wishes of the decedent as stated in the Will. If the decedent died without a Will in place (intestate), then the executor must follow the intestate rules for the state and jurisdiction of residence for the decedent.
What is the Process of Executing a Will in Wisconsin?
Executing a Will requires that the executor perform certain tasks shortly after the decedent dies.
- Filing in Filing in Probate: A Will needs to be filed in the probate court. There may be other paperwork the decedent needs to file at the same time.
- Gathering Information: The executor needs to begin gathering information, such as identifying the heirs of the decedent as well as the decedent's assets and debts. There may be an attorney or financial planner used by the decedent that can help with the collection of this information.
- Establish Estate Account: The executor will need to set up a bank account in the name of the Estate. This account can be used to hold the decedent's money and pay the decedent's debts.
- Keep Meticulous Records: It is important that the executor keep an accounting of any actions taken on behalf of the estate, including the disbursement of any funds.
- Distribute Assets: Once the debts have been settled the executor is responsible for distributing the remaining assets to the heirs as stated in the Will.
- Communicate with Probate Court: From the beginning of the process, until the executorship ends, the executor needs to keep an open line of communication with the probate court, as there are certain conditions that must be met peculiar to each jurisdiction.
Mistakes to Avoid while Executing a Will
Being an executor of a Will can be a tedious and time-consuming task. It is also a job that must be taken seriously to avoid complications.
Some of the more common errors of executors include:
- Failure to properly identify all heirs of the decedent
- Failure to locate the Will of the decedent
- Failure to understand or try to learn how the probate process works
- Failure to start the process within a reasonable time after the decedent's death
Errors such as the ones listed above can lead to an estate being tied up in probate for years. Beneficiaries have even been known to sue executors that did not properly execute an estate. In these cases, the courts have been known to remove the executor and replace them with someone else. Also, in some cases, the executor has been held personally liable and responsible for damages incurred. Of course, this depends on the jurisdiction.
Contact a Wills Lawyer in Wisconsin Today
Creating a Will is great protection you can provide to your heirs. If you make a mistake, however, the Will may not survive probate. To make sure you have a solid Will in place that addresses your wishes and secures your heirs' rights, contact Heritage Law Office today either online or at 414-253-8500. Our estate planning attorney will thoroughly review your wishes, discuss setting up or updating a Will, and provide additional information on how to better improve your overall estate plan.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What makes a will valid in Wisconsin?
A valid will in Wisconsin should be in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will) or by an individual in the testator's presence and at their direction, and witnessed by at least two individuals who also sign the will in the presence of the testator. The testator should be of sound mind and at least 18 years old. The document should also clearly outline the distribution of the testator's property after their death.
2. What are the roles and responsibilities of an executor in Wisconsin?
The executor, also known as a personal representative in some states, has the responsibility of administering the estate of the deceased. This involves gathering and valuing the assets of the estate, paying any debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as outlined in the will. The executor also has to provide an accounting of the estate to the court and to the beneficiaries.
3. How can I avoid common mistakes when executing a will in Wisconsin?
Common mistakes can be avoided by thorough planning and seeking legal advice. A will should be carefully drafted to ensure that it clearly reflects the testator's wishes. It's also crucial to select a responsible and trustworthy executor. If the will involves complex matters, such as the distribution of a large estate or provisions for minor children, an estate planning attorney's expertise is essential.
4. What happens if someone dies without a will in Wisconsin?
If a person dies without a will (intestate), Wisconsin intestacy laws will determine the distribution of the estate. Typically, the decedent's closest relatives will inherit the assets. If the decedent has a surviving spouse, the spouse usually receives all the assets. If there are surviving children not from the surviving spouse, the assets may be split between the spouse and the children.
5. Can I challenge a will in Wisconsin?
Yes, a will can be contested in Wisconsin, but only under certain circumstances. Grounds for contesting a will include allegations of undue influence, fraud, lack of capacity, or improper execution of the will. Contesting a will can be a complex process, and it's advisable to seek legal counsel.