What Is Probate, And Why Should It Be Avoided?

    In the area of estate planning, no word raises the blood pressure of those who are thinking ahead like “probate.”  Just its mention conjures up visions of Uncle Sam ransacking the estates of loved ones who did not plan correctly, and leaves far too many so paralyzed with fear that they make no plans at all.  Instead of nightmares and paralysis, however, a true understanding of probate will help thoughtful readers to make informed decisions about their own estate plans.

   As opposed to the monster it is often pictured to be, probate is actually a division of county government organized under Wisconsin’s law.  It is led by a register of probate, who is responsible for supervising the proper administration of wills and non-will estates in a county.  Most probate offices are staffed by friendly, helpful people who are well-versed in Wisconsin’s law and helpful to attorneys and unrepresented folks alike.

   With all of that said, however, avoiding any dealings with the probate office is an important goal in any estate plan because probate is expensive, slow and public.

   First, probate is expensive.  To be fair, the probate office only charges a minimal fee for its supervision of an estate.  The bulk of the expense in handling a probate matter is the fees for the attorneys, accountants and other professionals that are often necessary to p ...

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