CHAPTER 865
PROBATE — INFORMAL ADMINISTRATION
865.01   Applicability of informal administration.
865.02   Use of informal administration.
865.03   Formal proceedings: nature; effect.
865.031   Effect of fraud and evasion.
865.04   Proceedings independent; exceptions.
865.05   Notice: method and time of giving.
865.06   Application; contents.
865.065   Probate registrar: definition and powers.
865.07   Determinations required of probate registrar.
865.08   Informal appointment; letters.
865.09   Powers and duties; time of accrual.
865.10   Personal representative to proceed without court order; exception.
865.11   Inventory and tax returns.
865.12   Employment of appraisers.
865.13   Personal representative may pay claims.
865.14   Improper distribution; liability of distributee.
865.15   Purchasers from distributees protected.
865.16   Closing estates by sworn statement.
865.17   Liability of distributees to claimants.
865.18   Limitations on proceedings against personal representative.
865.19   Limitations on actions and proceedings against distributees.
865.20   Termination of joint tenancy or life estate.
865.201   Confirmation of interest in property.
865.202   Transfer of interest in property.
865.21   Receipts to be filed.
Ch. 865 Cross-reference Cross-reference: See definitions in ch. 851.
865.01 865.01 Applicability of informal administration. “Informal administration of estates" means the administration of decedents' estates, testate and intestate, without exercise of continuous supervision by the court. Administrative action by the probate registrar is not action by the court. Informal administration proceedings are, nevertheless, circuit court proceedings, records of which shall be kept in the same manner as they are kept for formal proceedings; all of the duties and powers of registers in probate, including the certification of papers filed in the probate court, apply to informal proceedings in the same manner as they apply to formal proceedings. All provisions of chs. 851 to 879 not inconsistent with this chapter shall apply to the informal administration of estates.
865.01 History History: 1973 c. 39; 1975 c. 331; 1977 c. 449.
865.01 Annotation Informal administration of decedents' estates in Wisconsin. 1974 WLR 581.
865.02 865.02 Use of informal administration.
865.02(1) (1) Informal administration may be used:
865.02(1)(a) (a) Where the decedent died testate and:
865.02(1)(a)1. 1. The will does not prohibit the use of informal administration;
865.02(1)(a)2. 2. The will names a personal representative who accepts such appointment;
865.02(1)(a)3. 3. Bond is furnished if required under s. 865.07 as provided under s. 856.25; and
865.02(1)(a)4. 4. The probate registrar may appoint a guardian ad litem, and shall have the authority, for such purpose, granted to the court by, and shall proceed pursuant to s. 879.23.
865.02(1)(b) (b) Where the decedent died intestate or the requirements of par. (a) 2. and 3. are not satisfied and:
865.02(1)(b)1. 1. All interested persons request or consent in writing to informal administration and to the appointment of the same person as personal representative. A guardian or guardian ad litem may consent on behalf of an interested person who is a minor or is an individual adjudicated incompetent. The probate registrar may appoint a guardian ad litem, and shall have the authority, for such purpose, granted to the court by, and shall proceed pursuant to s. 879.23.
865.02(1)(b)2. 2. Bond is furnished if required under s. 865.07 as provided under s. 856.25.
865.02(2) (2) Where the will of the decedent expressly prohibits informal administration it shall not be used.
865.02 History History: 1973 c. 39; 1975 c. 331; 2005 a. 387.
865.03 865.03 Formal proceedings: nature; effect.
865.03(1) (1) A formal proceeding in this chapter is a judicial proceeding before the court involving the administration of the estate of a decedent, including a court proceeding concerning the use or availability of this chapter. It is distinguished from an administrative proceeding before the probate registrar. Formal proceedings, either as to a particular issue or as to the entire subsequent administration of the estate, may be initiated by the personal representative or by any interested person at any time by a written demand therefor. Formal proceedings may be demanded by a guardian or guardian ad litem on behalf of an interested person who is a minor or is an individual adjudicated incompetent.
865.03(2) (2) A demand for formal proceedings shall be served on the personal representative, if any, and filed with the court. Service of a demand on the personal representative or, if none is appointed, filing of a demand with the court shall suspend informal administration as to the issues or matters referred to therein and shall suspend the powers of the personal representative in respect thereto until the same are reinstated by the court.
865.03 History History: 1973 c. 39; 2005 a. 387.
865.031 865.031 Effect of fraud and evasion. Whenever fraud has been perpetrated in connection with any proceeding or in any statement filed under this chapter, or if fraud is used to avoid or circumvent the provisions or purposes of this chapter, any person injured thereby may obtain appropriate relief against the perpetrator of the fraud, including restitution from any person, other than a bona fide purchaser, benefiting from the fraud, whether innocent or not. Any proceeding must be commenced within 2 years after the discovery of the fraud, but no proceeding may be brought against one not a perpetrator of the fraud later than 5 years after the time of commission of the fraud. This section has no bearing on remedies relating to fraud practiced on a decedent during the decedent's lifetime which affects the succession of the decedent's estate.
865.031 History History: 1973 c. 39; 1993 a. 486.
865.04 865.04 Proceedings independent; exceptions.
865.04(1)(1) Except where a demand for formal administration of the estate has been duly made:
865.04(1)(a) (a) Any interested person may apply for informal administration if administration of the estate has not been commenced under s. 856.07 or 879.57 or ch. 867; and
865.04(1)(b) (b) The personal representative may apply for informal administration at any time during administration.
865.04(2) (2) The determination of each issue and the completion of each proceeding required for the administration of a decedent's estate is independent of any other issue or proceeding involving the same estate.
865.04(3) (3) Petitions in formal proceedings during informal administration may combine various requests for relief if all the requests may be finally granted without delay.
865.04(4) (4) Upon entry of an order or judgment in a formal proceeding informal administration shall resume except as otherwise ordered by the court.
865.04 History History: 1973 c. 39, 243.
865.05 865.05 Notice: method and time of giving.
865.05(1) (1) Notice of application to initiate administration of an estate under this chapter shall be given to the persons entitled thereto under s. 879.03 (2) and (3) in accordance with s. 879.05, unless waived under s. 879.09. Notice to creditors shall be given in accordance with s. 859.07.
865.05(2) (2) When an estate is under formal administration and is to be made subject to this chapter the personal representative shall give notice to every interested person at least 20 days prior to filing with the probate registrar the application to initiate informal administration. Notice shall be given under s. 879.05, unless waived under s. 879.09.
865.05(3) (3) When an estate is under informal administration and a demand for a formal proceeding has been made, the personal representative shall, within 10 days of receipt of the demand, mail to each person interested in the estate a statement disclosing the demand and its nature.
865.05 History History: 1973 c. 39; 1975 c. 331; 1977 c. 73; 1989 a. 96.
865.06 865.06 Application; contents.
865.06(1) (1) The application to initiate informal administration shall be verified and shall be directed to the probate registrar of the court designated by s. 856.01 and shall state the information required by ss. 879.01 and 856.09, and whether any probate or administration proceeding concerning the estate of the decedent is pending in this state or elsewhere, and the nature of such proceeding, if any.
865.06(2) (2) In addition to the statements required by sub. (1), where the decedent apparently died testate, the application shall state:
865.06(2)(a) (a) That the original will is in the possession of the court or accompanies the application, or that it was probated elsewhere and an authenticated copy accompanies the application;
865.06(2)(b) (b) That the applicant believes the will to have been executed properly and to be valid and that the applicant has made diligent inquiry and is unaware of any subsequent revocation of the will.
865.06(3) (3) In addition to the statements required by sub. (1), where the decedent apparently died intestate, the application shall state that the applicant has made diligent inquiry and is unaware of any unrevoked testamentary instrument of the decedent.
865.06(4) (4) An application for appointment of a successor personal representative shall adopt the statements of any previous application unless they no longer are accurate in which event corrected statements shall be made. Consents required by s. 865.02 shall be reaffirmed by all interested persons.
865.06(5) (5) An application for informal administration in a pending estate shall incorporate all information otherwise required by this section and in addition shall set forth the name and post-office address of the personal representative of the estate.
865.06 History History: 1973 c. 39; 1993 a. 486.
865.065 865.065 Probate registrar: definition and powers.
865.065(1)(1) The term “probate registrar" refers to the official of the court designated to perform the functions of probate registrar. The acts and orders which this chapter specifies as performable by the probate registrar may be performed either by the court or by a person, including the clerk, deputy clerk, register in probate, deputy register in probate and court legal assistant, designated by the court by a written order filed and recorded in the office of the court. The probate registrar shall be an officer of the court and, unless prohibited by the court, shall be entitled to use the court seal.
865.065(2) (2) The probate registrar, the deputy or members of the staff of the probate registrar, or other persons designated to perform the duties of the probate registrar under this chapter, shall advise, within their competence, in the preparation of any of the documents required to be prepared and filed by the personal representative under this chapter.
865.065 History History: 1973 c. 39; 1975 c. 331; 1977 c. 343, 449.
865.065 Annotation A probate registrar is an official of the county court, and ss. 256.22 and 59.40 [now ss. 757.22 and 59.41] would prohibit an attorney who serves as probate registrar from practicing law in county [now circuit] court. 63 Atty. Gen. 55.
865.07 865.07 Determinations required of probate registrar.
865.07(1)(1) Where no administration proceedings are pending, upon receipt of an application for informal administration the probate registrar shall determine whether:
865.07(1)(a) (a) The application is complete including verification and the applicant is an interested person;
865.07(1)(b) (b) The court of the county in which the application is made has jurisdiction of the estate of the decedent;
865.07(1)(c) (c) The requests and consents required by s. 865.02 (1) (b) are complete and notice has been given as required under s. 865.05;
865.07(1)(d) (d) The decedent died intestate or testate and, if testate, whether the original will is in the possession of the court or accompanies the application, contains an attestation clause showing compliance with the requirements of execution under s. 853.03 or 853.05 or includes an affidavit in substantially the form under s. 853.04 (1) or (2), and does not expressly prohibit informal administration;
865.07(1)(e) (e) The person nominated for personal representative is not disqualified under s. 856.23 or otherwise deemed unsuitable;
865.07(1)(f) (f) Bond may be required. The probate registrar shall have the authority granted to the court by, and shall proceed pursuant to, s. 856.25.
865.07(2) (2) Where administration proceedings are pending either before the court or in another jurisdiction, upon receipt of an application for informal administration the probate registrar shall determine, in addition to the requirements of sub. (1), that no demand for formal administration has been made and, where the decedent died testate and the will was probated elsewhere, that an authenticated copy of the will and proof of probate accompany the application.
865.07(3) (3) The failure of the probate registrar to make a determination on any of the items set forth in subs. (1) and (2) shall not be a defense in any suit at law against the personal representative.
865.07 History History: 1973 c. 39; 2005 a. 216.
865.08 865.08 Informal appointment; letters.
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2015-16 Wisconsin Statutes updated through 2017 Wis. Act 273 and all Supreme Court and Controlled Substances Board Orders effective on or before April 14, 2018. Published and certified under s. 35.18. Changes effective after April 14, 2018 are designated by NOTES. (Published 4-14-18)