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Who Are Next Of Kin In Wisconsin?

Next of kin in Wisconsin are generally the following people:

  1. Surviving spouse or domestic partner
  2. Children
  3. Parents
  4. Brothers and Sisters
  5. Grandparents


In Wisconsin the term “next of kin” is frequently used as being synonymous with the terms “heirs” and “heirs at law” in legal instruments describing persons who take interest in property.

“Heirs” is defined in section 851.09 of the Wisconsin Probate Code to mean “any person, including the surviving spouse, who is entitled under the statutes of intestate succession to an interest in property of a decedent.”

What Is Intestate Succession In Wisconsin?

Intestate succession means succession to title to property of a decedent that is not disposed of by will.  Wisconsin intestate succession law will apply to determine who gets what from the decedent’s estate.

What Next Of Kin Inherit Under Wisconsin Law?

The next of kin heirs at law who are entitled to a share of a decedent’s intestate estate in Wisconsin depends on the other survivors of the decedent.  Like most states, the surviving spouse or domestic partner and the children of a decedent take priority under Wisconsin law.  Section 852.01 of the Wisconsin Probate Code sets forth the basic rules for intestate succession.

Survivors of the Decedent

Share of the Intestate Estate

Spouse/domestic partner only

100% to spouse/domestic partner

Spouse and children who are all descendants of surviving spouse

100% to spouse/domestic partner

Spouse and at least one child who is not a descendant of the surviving spouse

–         1/2 of separate property to the spouse/domestic partner

–         Remaining separate property and decedent’s share of marital property to children

Children, no surviving spouse

100% to children

Parents, no children or surviving spouse

100% to parents

Siblings, no parents, no children, no surviving spouse

100% to siblings and the issue of any deceased siblings per stirpes

Grandparents, no siblings, no parents, no children, no surviving spouse

–         ½ to maternal grandparents equally if both survive, or to the survivor; if both deceased, to their issue, per stirpes

–         ½ to paternal grandparents in the same manner as the maternal

–         If either the maternal or paternal side has no surviving grandparent or issue, the entire estate to the decedent’s relatives on the other side

Does Status As Next Of Kin Heir At Law Mean You Definitely Inherit?

No, it does not.  Even if you are the next of kin heir at law of a decedent’s intestate Wisconsin estate, there is no guarantee that there are any probate assets to inherit.  The decedent may have had only non-probate assets that are not governed by Wisconsin probate law, but are instead controlled by how the asset is titled.  For example, if the decedent died with only jointly owned property and bank accounts with pay on death beneficiaries, there would be no assets to pass through probate.  See our Probate and Non-Probate Assets Chart.

Do Next Of Kin Heirs Inherit If They Murder The Decedent?

No.  Under Wisconsin law, as in most states, an heir who kills the decedent does not inherit from the decedent’s estate.  Wisconsin law provides that the unlawful and intentional killing of the decedent revokes every statutory right or benefit to which the killer may have been entitled by reason of the decedent’s death.  See section 854.14 of the Wisconsin Probate Code.

Survival of Decedent By 120 Hours

In order for a next of kin heir to inherit under Wisconsin’s intestate succession laws, the individual must survive the decedent by 120 hours.  If the next of kin heir does not survive by at least 120 hours, the individual is considered to have predeceased the decedent.  See section 854.03 of the Wisconsin Probate Code.