Q: Estate/Probate question. See below
My brother passed away unexpectedly a few days ago. He was in the process of completing a will but did not
complete it. He has two (2) estranged children. I does have assets (condominium/car). He made it known that he wanted me to handle all of his affairs in the event of his death and we were working together to get his will done. I need to know how much I can do without involving his estranged children. I would like to at least get his estate probated. Any direction would be helpful. He lives in Madison, WI. Thank you.
A: I am sorry to hear about your brother's passing. Unfortunately, if he did not complete and sign the Will before two disinterested witnesses, it will not be valid in the State of Wisconsin. Based on the facts above, it sounds likely he died "intestate" meaning his assets will pass according to his "next of kin" according to the Wisconsin laws of intestate succession. You can petition the probate court to open a probate action for your brother, and petition to have yourself serve as Personal Representative. However, first you should examine his assets and see if any of them can pass non-probate via a beneficiary designation or other means. You will have to give notice to the children throughout the probate process, and they will likely be heirs as well. I suggest you meet with an experience probate attorney who can review these facts in more detail and give you the best strategy in this situation.
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