Christenson Johnson

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Estate and Trust Settlement

Planning for the settlement of a loved one’s estate after death involves many factors based on the assets involved and those who will receive the estate. We can assist you with the process of settling an estate through probate or administering a trust before or after death. Our support and guidance can help you cope with the stress and confusion you could experience when dealing with the various legal and financial issues related to an estate.

Estate Settlement through Probate

After an individual’s death, their estate is settled to pay expenses and debts and to distribute their assets to the proper recipients. Unless there is a trust or other arrangement, a person’s estate goes through the probate process. The probate process is conducted through the county probate court, and can be “informal” if matters are fairly straightforward and there are no conflicts among any of the parties. If there are any questions that the court must decide, then part or all of the probate process can be done “formally,” with a judge receiving evidence or testimony to make a decision about a particular issue. While the probate process in Wisconsin involved specific steps and deadlines, typically it is not burdensome and provides an orderly method for settling an estate. Our experienced attorneys and staff can guide and help you with the entire probate process step by step.

Trust Administration and Settlement

Many people choose a trust to avoid the cost, court involvement, and public nature of probate. With a trust, your designated trustee deals with the trust property for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries, either through ongoing management or with outright distribution. Whether you are a trustee or a trust beneficiary, we can advise you regarding the various aspects of trust administration and settlement. If trust continues for a period of time, we can assist you with following the terms of the trust for managing trust assets, making distributions, and keeping proper records for accounting and tax purposes. If a trust is terminating, we can help you take care of expenses, prepare reports, and make the distributions according to the terms of the trust.

Other Alternatives

Additional options may exist for assets that do not pass through probate or through a trust. For example, joint accounts, pay-on-death accounts, transfer-on-death designations, and beneficiary designations all pass assets to the surviving owner or beneficiary through one or more processes unique to each account or asset. Furthermore, for estates with a gross value of $50,000 or less, a small estate affidavit may be used to claim the property, with the distribution of the property done informally by the one who claims it. We can advise and assist with these non-probate transfers, which often involve completing various documents to submit to multiple entities.