If a person dies leaving no will, the probate court follows the state’s rules for Intestate Succession. The following is a summary of the rules for distributing their assets in the state of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin law governing these rules
- Everything to the spouse (but see the exceptions below)
- If there is no spouse, everything to the issue per stirpes. Issue means direct descendants including children, grandchildren, etc. Per stirpes means that everything goes to the children if they are all living, with nothing to the grandchildren. But if Child #1 of the Decedent has passed away, the children of Child #1 (the grandchildren of Decedent) get to split Child #1’s share.
- If no spouse or issue, everything goes to the parents.
- If no spouse, issue or parent, then to the siblings or their issue per stirpes.
- If no spouse, issue or parent or issue of parent, to the grandparents or their issue per stirpes, one half on the mother’s side and one half on the father’s side.
- If there is no person described above, then the Wisconsin School Fund gets the property.
There are exceptions.
If the Decedent had children that were not children of the spouse (Pre-Spouse Children), those children split the estate with the spouse. Subject to the spouse’s right to keep certain household property and an automobile, the Pre-Spouse Children receive all of the Decedent’s interest in marital property and property held by the Decedent and spouse as tenants in common. The Pre-Spouse Children also receive half of the Decedent’s interest in individual property.
The spouse receives all interest in real estate held as husband and wife as joint marital property.
If you have a case that involved pre-spouse children, it is often a very good idea to get an attorney involved very early on, to make sure assets are divided according to the law.
If you’ve lost a loved one and are in the middle of the long and confusing probate process, we invite you to request a consultation with one of our experienced probate attorneys. We would be happy to help you work through the process.