Expert assistance in difficult times

No one enjoys settling an estate. There is often a lot of work to do, often at the most difficult time possible. And most people do not have to settle more than one estate in their lives, making the process a new and uncertain one.

We think working with an estate attorney should be the easy part of this process. We provide the experience, up front, to understand what must be done to efficiently handle estates ranging from simple single asset, single beneficiary settlements to trusts or wills with dozens of beneficiaries. As the settlement moves forward, we rely on a time-tested system for helping our clients perform their duties without unnecessary work and in a manner that avoids disputes before they happen.

A commitment to cost certainty

We also think that whenever possible, administrators should know what their attorney’s fees will be before they get started. To that end, we’ve developed a flat fee system that allows our clients to receive a quote, up front, for the work we will do in uncontested settlements. Not all estates qualify—for example, if no one knows what the decedent owned, we will not know how much work we will have to do—but if the assets and beneficiaries are known, we can provide a flat fee quote for all of our work.

To our knowledge, we are the only firm in central Wisconsin that offers a flat fee settlement option. But we think it’s the right way to do business, and we’ve found that it makes for better client relationships and a better settlement process.


Q:

What is probate?

A:

Probate is a court-supervised process of wrapping up a decedent’s affairs. The first stage is appointing a personal representative. The second stage is asset management, where the personal representative settles bills and expenses, manages and liquidates assets. The final stage is a closing stage, where the personal representative files financial reports with the court, makes final distributions to the beneficiaries, and files a final tax return for the estate.


Q:

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Do all estates go through probate?

No. There are a number of other ways assets can pass at death other than probate, such as joint ownership and beneficiary designation. One of the first steps in settling someone’s affairs is reviewing the assets to determine whether a probate is necessary.


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My deceased parent had a trust. What do I need to do?

Assets passing through a revocable trust do not go through probate. However, the trustee still needs to manage and sell property, keep accurate financial records, provide appropriate reports to the beneficiaries, distribute trust property appropriately, and file a tax return. We assist with this following a similar process to the process we use for probates. However, the amount of work for us is typically less than in a probate proceeding because the court is not involved.


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How do your flat fees work?

We provide a quote for work that we know will need to be done, such as preparing appointment paperwork, working out a plan for managing assets, and assisting with financial record keeping and final reports. If unanticipated work becomes necessary (for example, a creditor files a disputed claim, or a dispute arises with a beneficiary) that work is handled hourly.


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How long does probate take?

All probates will take at a minimum four months due to court deadlines. Most uncontested probates are closed six to nine months after they are opened.


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The attorney who drafted my parent’s plan has retired. What are my options?

As a matter of practice, many families work with the attorney who drafted the decedent’s estate plan to settle the estate. However, this is not required. The personal representative can choose the attorney they would like to work with. We commonly handle estates where the attorney who drafted the plan has since retired, or when the family prefers a flat fee quote.


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Are most probates disputed?

No. Good estate planning eliminates most disputes. Most disputes we have handled arose from situations where the decedent never made a plan, or created documents on their own. We have also handled disputes arising out of unclear language in a document, amendments that were made not following the correct procedure, and personal representatives or trustees acting inappropriately. Fortunately, however, these types of disputes are very much the exception, not the rule.


Q:

 

What happens at my first appointment?

A:

 

During your first appointment, we review the decedent’s estate plan, family situation, and asset structure, and decide on next steps. If we are able to develop a clear picture of what needs to be done to settle the decedent’s affairs during that meeting, we will provide a quote for our work and discuss next steps.


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What do I need to bring to my first appointment?

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We ask that you bring the decedent’s original estate planning documents (i.e. will or trust and anything else drafted at the same time). If possible, bring full names and addresses for everyone named in the will or trust as a beneficiary and a recent statement for each of the decedent’s assets you are aware of (i.e. bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, etc.). You can also bring any other documents you have questions about.


READY TO GET STARTED?

All of our probate and estate settlement work starts with a no-obligation consultation. Call us today to schedule.