A will is used to dictate who receives your property (only assets that pass through probate, which is a topic for another day). If a Wisconsin resident passes away without a will, Wisconsin law under Chapter 852 dictates who receives his/her property. The person who passes away is called the "decedent." To over-simplify, the property of the decedent is called the "estate."
If the decedent was married at the time of his/her death, the surviving spouse will likely receive the decedent's property. See. 852.01(1)(a). I use words such as "will likely" for a reason. There are exceptions to every rule. For example, if a spouse doesn't want the decedent's property, the spouse can disclaim his/her interest. One of many other exceptions would occur if the decedent and the spouse had a pre-nup or post-nup that allowed for the estate to pass to someone other than the spouse.
If the decedent was unmarried/singled/widowed with living children, the estate would pass to the decedent's children. If the decedent is unmarried/single/widowed without children, the estate passes to the decedent's living parents. 852.01(1)(c) The statute goes on, and on, and on, to address what happens when a single person dies without children, without parents, without siblings, ...
If this seems like time for a flow chart, you understand why attorneys attend law school and why having a will is a good idea. As always, blogs and the internet are no substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your state. This blog is not legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship with Lakeland Law Firm, LLC or its attorneys.