Register in Probate (RIP)

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Probate Frequently Asked Questions 


What is Probate?

Probate is the process that transfers a decedent's property to persons entitled to receive it, pays creditor's claims, and determines and pays any state or federal taxes.

I have an original will of a relative who just passed away.  There are no assets that require probate.  What do I do with the original will?

Every person, other than the executor, having the custody of a will, shall within 30 days after he or she has knowledge of the death of the testator, file the original will in the proper court or deliver it to the person named as executor in the will.  Every person named as executor shall, within 30 days after he or she has knowledge that he or she is named executor, and has knowledge of the death of the testator, file the original will in the proper court, unless the will has been otherwise deposited with the court.  

What is the filing fee for probate?

The filing fee is 0.2% of the total value of the property subject to administration, or a minimum of $20.

What is the difference between being named a personal representative or an executor?

These are two terms referring to the person to whom letters to administer a decedent's estate have been granted by the court or by the probate registrar.

How do I search genealogy records?

The Probate Office has an index card file in the office that the public can access.  Records filed after November, 1996, are on the computer.  Microfilm is available for viewing.

What is the cost for doing a probate search?

If an individual requesting the search comes into our office and looks up the record him/herself, there is not a search fee.  If the search request is mailed to the probate office, there is a $4 search fee that must be paid in advance.

What is the cost for obtaining a certified copy of a document?

The cost is $3 for the certification plus $1 per page.  

How much do you charge for copies?

$1 per page.

Do you give hearing dates out for probate/guardianship pleadings before they are filed?

No, pursuant to local court rule, the pleadings must be filed with the Probate Office before the clerk will assign a court date.

How do I file a claim?

You must fill out a claim form, have it notarized, and file it in the Probate office, along with a $3 filing fee.
I have a relative who died owning less than $50,000 in solely owned property, do I need to file a probate?

No, the property can be transferred using an Affidavit of Transfer form by any heir or guardian of the decedent.  This form is available from any office supply store or online at  (form PR-1831).  If you have questions regarding the use of this form, please contact the Supreme Court Forms Officer at (608)266-7143.

I have been appointed personal representative/executor for the estate of my uncle, who was an Illinois resident.   My uncle owned a piece of real estate in Walworth County.  What do I need to do?

If no personal representative has been appointed in Wisconsin, upon filing a certified copy of your appointment papers in Walworth County you may exercise power over the Walworth County real estate, including sale or assignment of the property.  

Do I need an attorney to go through probate?

The personal representative must be represented by an attorney if a formal probate is filed.  The Wisconsin Legislature created a procedure for probating a decedent's solely owned property as well as property in which he had a joint tenancy interest in an informal manner without the necessity of processing the probate through the court and without the necessity of an attorney, if certain conditions are met.  You may use an attorney, as needed, at any time during informal probate.  At any point in informal administration, you can ask the court to switch from an informal to a formal.  The Registrar can also ask the court to switch to a formal, and you would then be required to retain an attorney.  The Probate Registrar can answer questions on preparation of forms but cannot give legal advice.

Does all of the decedent's property go through probate?

The decedent's probate estate consists of all property that the decedent owned solely or as a tenant in common.  Proceeds from a life insurance policy which are payable on the decedent's estate also require probate.  Jointly owned property, survivorship marital property, life insurance, annuity, or retirement accounts that are payable upon death to a named beneficiary, or assets that are POD (payable on death) to another person (such as bank accounts) are not probate property.  

Is a personal representative paid for his job?

The personal representative is allowed all necessary expenses in the care, management, and settlement of the estate.  The personal representative shall be allowed a fee for his or her services.  The amount of the fee is determined by the probate court, based on a statutory formula.  If the decedent and the personal representative, or the persons who receive the majority interest in the estate and the personal representative, agree to a different amount, it must be in writing.  If the estate requires extraordinary services or is unusually difficult, the court may allow a greater fee.  If a personal representative is derelict in his duty, his or her compensation for services may be reduced or denied. 

Can I get informal forms on the Internet?

Yes, many probate forms are now available on the Internet at  These may be "downloaded" and are "fillable" forms.  The Register in Probate's office also has an informal packet with a helpful informal handbook.  You can obtain these in Room 2085 of the Walworth County Judicial Center.  

How do I go about collecting proceeds from a life insurance policy from the decedent?  

When a death occurs, normally the life insurance company requires the policy itself and a copy of the death certificate (available from the Register of Deeds).  The life insurance agent can assist you in collecting the proceeds. 

I had power of attorney for my loved one who just passed away.  Can I still manage his/her affairs?

No, your power to act ends with the principal's death.

How do I transfer a motor vehicle?  

The State Department of Motor Vehicles has a form that is used to transfer a vehicle to a surviving spouse, heir, or joint owner.  You can obtain information on the location of their offices and hours of service at their website on the external links page.

Who are the heirs?  

Heir means any person, including the surviving spouse, who is entitled under the statutes of intestate succession to an interest in the property of the decedent.  Refer to Wis. Ch. 852 for the order of distribution.  Heirs are entitled to notice of probate proceedings and will inherit all of the decedent's assets if he or she did not leave a will.

When are the annual reports for guardians and trustees due?

Annual reports need to be filed no later than April 15th.

I lost my annual report form.  Can I get a new one?

Yes.  You will need to call the Probate Office at (262)741-7014 and request one.

I am a co-guardian/co-trustee.  Do both guardians/trustees need to sign the annual report?

Yes, both guardians/trustees must sign the annual report.

Do I need to show the Court proof of assets listed on page 3 of the accounting?

Yes, be sure to send copies of bank statements or other documents you have to verify the amounts listed on the account.

Do I need to send a copy of my annual report to Walworth County Human Services?

No, we will send a copy to them.


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