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The State of Wisconsin has established a set of rules related to the manner in which decedent estates are administered. The state estate has provided a base set of inheritance rules which can be modified when the deceased has executed a will. In this article, we will be reviewing how a Wisconsin estate is divided if there is no will. 

What Is the Effect of Having a Will? 

Under Wisconsin law, if a person has a will, this document will control how property is passed down to respective heirs. They will also define who is entitled to inherit property from the deceased. The deceased can also choose to include people that would not usually be entitled to inherit and may exclude people who would otherwise inherit.  

What Happens if There is Not a Will? 

The Wisconsin Intestacy laws will control how the decedent’s estate is passed down when a person dies without a will. The state has set rules to ensure that the spouse, children, grandchildren, or other relatives can receive the deceased’s property. The court will strictly apply these intestacy rules unless some exceptions need to be applied. 

Who Is Eligible to Inherit Under Intestate Succession in Wisconsin? 

Any person who is a valid heir of the decedent who did not commit a crime that invalidates their inheritance and outlives the decedent by 120 days may be eligible to inherit from an intestate estate. 

What Happens If the Decedent is Married? 

If the decedent was married, the spouse is eligible to receive 100% of the estate. The children of the marriage are not eligible to inherit so long as the spouse meets their eligibility requirements. If the spouse has predeceased or fails to outlive the decedent by 120 days, the children of the marriage receive 100% of the estate. 

What Happens When the Decedent Has Children That Were Not with Their Spouse? 

If the decedent had children with someone other than their spouse at the time of death, the spouse would be entitled to 50% of the decedent’s estate. The children from a separate person or relationship will be entitled to 50% of the estate. The spouses' children are still not entitled to inherit if the spouse is eligible to inherit. 

What If the Decedent Did Not Have a Spouse or Living Children? 

Suppose the decedent does not have a living spouse or any living children/grandchildren. In that case, the state estate allows the closest living relatives to inherit the estate through per stripes inheritance. This means that the state estate will go up a generation to the deceased's parents and find any living relatives. Through this process, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and grandnieces/nephews may be eligible to inherit the decedent's property.  

Can the State Inherit the Decedent’s Property If There Is Not a Will? 

Yes, in infrequent instances. Suppose there are no recognizable living relatives for the deceased. In that case, there is an avenue through which the state may assume the property. This is known as an escheated estate. The state estate holds the funds and property for ten years to allow any heirs to discover the death of their relative and come forward with the state estate. After ten years, the property is deemed to be State property for the use of the state estate. 


Learn your rights when it comes to estates in Wisconsin. Our Wisconsin attorneys can help you every step of the way. If you need assistance filing a protective order, please call us at (630)-324-6666 or fill out our confidential contact form. A member of our team will be in touch with you. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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