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A recent survey shows that a shocking number of Americans have yet to begin the estate planning process. Only 32% of adults have a will or other estate planning documents in place, representing an 8% decrease from 2019 and a 10% decrease from 2017.

Like many of these people, you may think that you can put off writing a will until a later date. Or, you may feel clueless about how to begin. Yet, the sooner you proceed, the less likely your family will experience a confusing or lengthy probate process.

Understanding Wisconsin’s intestate succession laws

Preparing a will is crucial if you want your assets to end up in the right hands. By failing to document your intentions, your assets will instead disburse based on Wisconsin’s intestate succession laws. Under these laws, your assets will pass to your closest surviving next of kin.

If you have a spouse, they are considered your closest next of kin in Wisconsin. Under state law, they will inherit the entirety of your estate if you have no will, even if you two have children together. Yet, besides your spouse, you may have one or more children from a previous marriage.

In this case, your spouse will receive half of your individual estate. Your children, then, will receive the other half, as well as your half of your marital estate, except for your home. If you have children but no spouse, whether due to death or divorce, they will receive the entirety of your estate.

If you have no spouse and no children, your estate will disburse in the following order:

  • Your parents
  • Your siblings or their descendants
  • Your grandparents or their descendants
  • Wisconsin’s school fund

While Wisconsin’s intestate succession laws may seem straightforward, you likely do not want to leave all your assets to your closest next of kin – or to the state. To avoid this outcome, it is crucial that you draft a will to ensure the people you want to have your assets receive them.