Wisconsin law outlines the duties that a personal representative -- the term Wisconsin uses instead of an executor -- must complete within 12 to 18 months of an individual's death. In exchange for an executor’s fee, which is 2 percent of the value of the estate at the time of publication, a personal representative settles a decedent’s estate alone or with help from an attorney. Because closing an estate can be difficult and time consuming, executors need to understand what the position entails before agreeing to manage and close an estate in Wisconsin.
The goal of being a personal representative is to close a decedent’s estate. For an estate valued at more than $50,000, a personal representative oversees the probate process. For an estate valued at $50,000 or less, a personal representative closes the estate without court involvement. Upon completing all duties, asset distributions are first made to a surviving spouse and any minor children as required under Wisconsin law and then according to instructions in the decedent’s will. If no will exists, remaining asset distributions go to legal heirs in accordance with Wisconsin Statute 852.01 succession laws.
Manage the Estate
Duties that focus on managing the property a decedent owned or controlled include identifying and collecting all assets not jointly owned or disposed of in a will. This includes personal property, vehicle titles, real estate deeds and bank and investment accounts. Using Form PR-1811 and PR-1831, a personal representative must then inventory and determine the fair market value of the decedent’s assets on the date of death and transfer ownership from the decedent to the estate. For financed assets and real estate, a personal representative must continue meeting all financial obligations until liquidating or passing these assets to the decedent’s heirs.
Locate and Notify Creditors
After receiving Form PR-1804, Notice to Creditors, and PR-1805, Deadline for Filing Claims, from the probate registrar, a personal representative forwards the notice to all known creditors and publishes a copy of each notice in the local newspaper. Wisconsin probate laws require that the notice be published once a week for three consecutive weeks, with the first publication occurring within 15 days from the date the probate registrar signs the notice. Creditors then receive payment after the executor pays any federal and state taxes due but before she distributes any proceeds to heirs.
File Tax Returns
A personal representative is responsible for paying the decedent’s and the estate's federal and state tax obligations. According to Internal Revenue Service Publication 559, Survivors, Executors and Administrators, the IRS requires an individual income tax return covering the period from Jan. 1 of the current year through the date of death and Form 1041 to report any income received by the estate between the date of death and the date the estate closes. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue also requires a personal and an estate income tax return. In addition, if an heir receives taxable proceeds -- such as an individual retirement account, dividends paid on stocks, interest paid on bank accounts or installment payments on a land contract -- a personal representative or an accountant must prepare and send each heir a Schedule K-1 from the estate.