Dying Without a Will in Wisconsin

Laws of Intestacy Succession in Wisconsin

Leisure boating, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Leisure boating, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Credit: Environmental Protection Agency

NOTE: State laws change frequently, and the following information may not reflect recent changes in the laws. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

When a Wisconsin resident dies without having made a Last Will and Testament, the intestacy succession laws found in the will dictate who inherits the probate estate.

Below is a summary of the Wisconsin intestacy succession laws in various situations.

Deceased Person is Survived by a Spouse and/or Descendants

Here is what will happen if the deceased person is survived by a spouse and/or descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.):

  • Survived by a spouse and descendants of that spouse - In this case, the spouse will inherit the entire probate estate.
  • Survived by a spouse and descendants at least one of whom is not the descendant of the spouse - In this case, the spouse will inherit one-half (1/2) of the separate property.  The descendants of the deceased person will inherit their deceased parent's share of the community property plus the balance of the separate property, per stirpes.
  • Survived by descendants and no spouse - In this case, the deceased person's descendants will inherit 100% of the probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and no descendants - In this case, the spouse will inherit the entire probate estate.

    Deceased Person is Not Survived by a Spouse or Descendants

    Here is what will happen if the deceased person is not survived by a spouse or any descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.):

    • Survived by one or both parents - In this case, the parents will inherit equal shares of the deceased person's probate estate if both are living, or the surviving parent will inherit 100%.
    • Survived by siblings or descendants of siblings and no parents - In this case, the deceased person's siblings and the descendants of deceased siblings (nieces and nephews) will inherit the entire probate estate, per stirpes.
    • Not survived by any family members - If the deceased person is not survived by any family members, then the entire probate estate will escheat to the State of Wisconsin.

    What Will You Inherit From a Wisconsin Intestate Estate?

    What will you inherit if your relative dies without leaving a Last Will and Testament and the relative was a Wisconsin resident or owned real estate located in Wisconsin?  Even if you determine based on the information above that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you may not inherit anything. Why? Because your relative may have left all non-probate property or the debts your relative owed at the time of death may exceed the value of the probate estate which will make the estate insolvent.

    If you are not sure of your legal rights as an intestate heir in Wisconsin, then consult with a Wisconsin probate attorney to be sure.

    Will You Owe Taxes on Your Wisconsin Inheritance?

    Wisconsin is among the majority U.S. states that do not collect an estate tax or an inheritance tax at the state level.

      However, your inheritance may be subject to an estate tax at the federal level, and you may also owe income taxes (state and/or federal) on certain types of assets you inherit.  Refer to the following articles to determine if you will owe any taxes on your Wisconsin inheritance.