General Information

Finding a case
You can search for cases filed in Manitowoc County at Wisconsin Circuit Court Access. Once there, if you do not understand how it works, please feel free to call and we can walk you through it. The court event box is clickable and the full court record will then be shown. Adoptions (AD), Guardianships (GN) and Civil Commitments (ME) are confidential and do not appear on that record. Authorized persons can obtain access through the Probate office. Records are either electronic of paper for those three case types. Probate (PR) (estates and wills) are open records and can be viewed by the public from our office. Only the court record appears on line. Our office is also the only place to view or obtain copies of the documents filed.

A list of commonly incurred statutory fees.  The complete list can be found in Section 814.66, Wisconsin Statutes. Additionally, some cases involve court appoint attorneys or guardian ad litem. If the fee is charged to a party, the office collects those fees.

The office maintains a supply of forms required for proceedings in probate court for attorneys and citizens in need of the same.  Forms are also available from the Wisconsin Court system website.  The office of the Register in Probate also has some forms required by other agencies in the cases it handles.

Record Maintenance
The office maintains all probate court records for Manitowoc County.  In the event of an appeal, the office is charged with the duty to prepare the record for the Court of Appeals.  As part of the Wisconsin Court System, office's activities are reported to the Director of State Courts.  State law provides for long term mandatory retention requirements of up to 100 years for some case types and permanent retention for adoptions; compliance requires extensive storage and cataloging facilities. The office is moving to electronic files. As of 2016, ALL newly filed cases are maintained only as electronic records.

Explain procedure to those wanting to file adoptions and step-parent adoptions without assistance of counsel. Our assistance is limited to procedure; we cannot give legal advice.  Adoption forms are available on Wisconsin Court system website.  While Manitowoc County Circuit Court will allow you to file without an attorney, this is not true in all counties. Check with your local court before proceeding.  Keeper of the record - these files must be maintained permanently.

Civil Commitments
Upon notification of a detention or petition for examination, prepares necessary pleadings for initial hearing.  If subject is held for further proceedings, arranges for psychiatric evaluations in adult and juvenile alcoholic, mental health and drug dependent commitments.  Keeper of the record - these files must be maintained for 7 years, 75 if there is a firearm restriction imposed.

The Probate Office will provide general assistance to attorneys and the public with guardianship, conservatorship and protective placement procedures, including those involving juveniles.  However, we cannot give legal advice.  If a petition can be filed without the assistance of a lawyer, forms are available.  The forms can be found on the Wisconsin Court system website.  At time of initial petition and for annual reviews, the Register appoints a Guardian ad Litem and adversary counsel if required.  The office is directed to collect reimbursement of fees paid to said persons by the County.  Staff members review guardianship and conservatorship inventories and annual accountings.  The offices collects the appropriate filing fees upon filing of an inventory in guardianship matters.

Probate Cases
The Probate Office has a collection of wills for safekeeping. While new wills are not accepted, the office will take those stored by law offices when the office closes. The existance of such a file can be found with a simple name search. The Register in Probate will then file the will upon notification of death.

Other probate files are retained for 75 years and can be viewed at the office in paper, microfilm or electronic format. At this time earlier files remain in the custody of the probate office but transfer to the Wisconsin State Historical Society is to take place in the future.

A family member or friend has died. Now what?

Probate - What do I need to do?
To decide, find out everything you can about the person's assets - real estate, bank accounts, and insurance - anything of value and call us.  We will ask questions to help you decide your next step.  The Personal Representative's Guide to Probate will help you work through these questions.  Available in the office - just $10.00 (tax included) or online at the Wisconsin Registers in Probate Association website. However, we cannot give legal advice.  If the value subject to administration is less than $50,000, you may be able to use an affidavit for transfer; though in some situations it may be necessary or more appropriate to use another procedure.  If over $50,000, a full probate is required.  Any of these can be done without the assistance of a lawyer.  To find out more, call us.

"Full "Probate For estates over $50,000, you must complete probate administration using either Formal or Informal procedures.  Informal may be filed by anyone but only lawyers may file Formal Probate procedures.  Probate requires many forms which can be obtained at our office or online at the Wisconsin Court Forms Website.  We require self-represented petitioners to make an appointment prior to accepting documents for an informal probate.  There are fees for this process.  We have a guidebook to help you complete the forms and decide whether to use this process.  The booklet is $10.00 (tax included).  Add $2.90 to receive by mail.  The guidebook is available online.

Probate - Affidavit for Transfer of Property This is a simple procedure used for small estates valued at less than $50,000. The form is available in our office or on-line (Form PR-1831).  You may complete it on your own.  It need not be filed with our office.  This form is presented to the holder of property who must then release the property to the heir, trustee or guardian in accordance with the law.

Probate - Summary Proceedings Additional options for estates less than $50,000. Some small estates might not be suitable for an Affidavit.  You could file a full probate or use one of the following procedures. These procedures may be completed without a lawyer. Forms are available in the office or online at Wisconsin Court Forms.  Please call us before you begin.  Fees may apply.
Summary Settlement used: (a) when there is a surviving spouse or minor child or (b) when the certain debts exceed the value of the estate.  
Summary Assignment used when the estate does not qualify for Summary Settlement.