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Wisconsin Wills Laws

We’ve all seen wills read on TV shows and movies, but how do wills work, legally speaking? Basically, a will is a plan for what happens with a person’s property after they pass away. While none of us want to think about losing a loved one, it’s always better to have a plan in place should the unthinkable happen. And the Badger State has it’s own laws regulating the way wills can be created, who can create them, and what they can cover. This is a quick introduction to wills laws in Wisconsin.

Wills Laws

Generally speaking, a will is a document (or an oral statement in certain limited circumstances) that dictates a plan for a person’s property and affairs after he or she passes away. More specifically, a person's will could state that his lake house goes to his son while his daughter gets the family dairy business. While similar to will laws in other states in most respects, Wisconsin’s will statutes do not recognize oral wills. Only written wills are legally recognized.

Wills Laws in Wisconsin

The chart below highlights the main provisions of Wisconsin's will laws.

Code Section

853.01, et seq.

Age of Testator

18 years or older and of sound mind

Number of Witnesses

Signed by two or more competent witnesses in presence of testator and each other.

Nuncupative (Oral Wills)

Not valid

Holographic Wills

Without witnesses, not recognized under Wisconsin law unless executed in accordance with law of place where executed or law of state of domicile at time of execution.

Understanding Wills

There can be some strange and confusing legal terminology used in Wisconsin estate planning laws, and the laws can look inscrutable at first glance. For clarification, the “testator” is the person whose after-death wishes are specified in the will. A “nuncupative” or oral will is one that is spoken or otherwise unwritten, and are not legally binding in Wisconsin. Finally, a “holographic” will is a handwritten testament, which is only valid if it is executed in front of witnesses or signed in accordance with local or state of domicile laws.

Wisconsin Wills Laws: Related Resources

What happens with your possessions after you pass away is a serious matter, and creating a will on your own, especially one that accomplishes exactly what you intended, can be confusing. For additional articles and resources on creating and changing a will, you can visit FindLaw’s Wills section. You can also contact a Wisconsin wills attorney if you would like legal assistance in creating or interpreting a will.

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