What Happens If a Person Dies Without a Will in Wisconsin?
If a person dies leaving no will, the Wisconsin probate court follows the state’s rules for Intestate Succession with the deceased's spouse and children receiving priority as inheritors. If there is no spouse or children, the deceased's parents, siblings, or other descendants may claim rights to the estate.
Intestate Succession Rules in Wisconsin
The following is a summary of the rules for distributing their assets in the state of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin law governing these rules indicate that the property goes to the following parties in certain scenarios:
- Spouse: Everything to the spouse (but see the exceptions below)
- Children, Grandchildren, Descendants: 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.
- Parents: If no spouse or issue, everything goes to the parents.
- Siblings or Descendants: If no spouse, issue, or parent, then to the siblings or their issue per stirpes.
- Grandparents: If no spouse, issue or parent or issue of a parent, to the grandparents or their issue per stirpes, one half on the mother’s side and one half on the father’s side.
- The State: If there is no person described above, then the Wisconsin School Fund gets the property.
What About Children from a Previous Marriage?
There are exceptions to the intestate succession rules:
- 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 the 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.
Questions About Inheriting an Estate? Call Us
If you have a case that involved pre-spouse children, it is often a very good idea to get a probate 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.