In Wisconsin, if you die without a will, or your will doesn’t give all of your property away, your property will be distributed according to the chart at right.

 In order to determine who will inherit your property, begin at the top of the chart. Your property will be distributed as directed by the chart until all of the property is gone. 

Here are a few examples of how the chart works: 

1. Harry died without a will. When Harry died, he was married to Sally. Harry and Sally had four children together. Sally will inherit 100 percent of Harry’s property. 

2. Harry died without a will. When Harry died, he was married to Sally, who was his second wife. Harry had two children with his first wife, and two children with Sally. Sally will inherit 50 percent of Harry’s property, and each child from Harry’s first marriage will inherit 25 percent of Harry’s property. 

3. Harry died without a will. Harry’s second wife, Sally, died before him. Harry was survived by four children, two from his first marriage and two from his second marriage. Each child will inherit 25 percent of Harry’s property.

 4. Harry died without a will. Harry, his wife Sally, and Harry’s four children died in an accident together. Harry’s parents are alive. Each parent will inherit 50 percent of Harry’s property. 

5. Harry died without a will. Harry, his wife Sally, and Harry’s four children died in an accident together. Harry’s parents died before him. Harry’s brother is alive. Harry’s sister died before him as well, but her two children are alive. Harry’s brother will inherit 50 percent of his property, and each of Harry’s sister’s children will inherit 25 per-cent of his property. 

6. Harry died without a will. Harry, his wife Sally, and Harry’s four children died in an accident together. Harry’s parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews died before him as well. Harry’s grandfather on his father’s side is alive. Harry’s grandparents on his mother’s side died before him, but Harry’s aunt (his mother’s sister) is alive. Harry’s grandfather will inherit 50 percent of his property, and Harry’s aunt will inherit 50 percent of his property. 

7. Harry died without a will. He is not survived by any family members. Harry’s property will be contributed to the Wisconsin State School Fund. 

After using the chart to determine who will inherit your property if you die without a will, you should create an estate plan if you are not satisfied with the results. 

Even if you are satisfied with who will inherit your property, you may want to look at other estate planning tools. 

For instance, the default laws in Wisconsin provide that the person(s) who will inherit your property if you die without a will receive the property outright and free of trust upon your death.

 Depending on the age, capacity, maturity, and sophistication of the person(s), and the value of the property, you may prefer to deliver the property in trust for the benefit of the person(s) rather than directly to the per-son(s). 

There are a multitude of other reasons why you may choose to create an estate plan, even if you are satisfied with who will inherit your property if you die without a will. Shanna Yonke is an attorney with Ruder Ware law firm. 

Chart

Where inheritance goes if you don’t have a will 

Spouse

100 percent if deceased person’s children, if any, are spouse’s children

• 50 percent if deceased person has children from a prior relationship 

Children

• 50 percent divided equally among children if spouse is not parent

• 100 percent if deceased person did not have surviving spouse 

Parents

• 100 percent divided equally between parents 

Siblings

• 100 percent divided equally among siblings (a deceased sibling’s part is divided equally among that sibling’s children) 

Grandparents

• 50 percent divided equally between maternal grandparents

• 50 percent divided equally between paternal grandparents (if no surviving grandparents, then property passes through this inheritance chart, as applied to grandparents) 

Wisconsin State School Fund

• 100 percent if deceased person has no heirs