Carlo Esqueda

Clerk of Circuit Court and Register in Probate

Dane County Courthouse
Room 1000
215 S Hamilton St.
Madison, WI 53703
Map to the Courthouse

Phone: (608) 266-4311
Fax: (608) 267-8859
TTY: Call Wisconsin Relay 711

7:45 AM to 4:30 PM
Closed all County holidays

Customers should arrive in time to complete all business by 4:30 PM

All filings and requests through the mail require a self addressed stamped envelope to return incorrect and/or processed paperwork and receipts to you. Please ensure all required documents are properly notarized before filing with the court.

Frequently Asked Questions About Probate

NOTE: The information provided here is merely intended to give you a general idea of the procedures and meanings of court actions, and is not meant to be legal advice or legally binding.

FAQ Sections

General Probate Court FAQ

Q: Where can I find the law on Probate?

The Wisconsin Statutes have several chapters regarding Probate Court actions. Look especially in chapters 851-882.

Q: Are any probate records on the internet?

Yes! A scaled-down version of the information on the court computer docket is available on the internet on Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (CCAP). Here you can find case numbers, the name of the personal representative, the final date to file claims (if it has not yet been passed), and whether any claims have been filed.

Q: Where can I find information about Probate Court deadlines?

The Wisconsin Statutes have several chapters that outline deadlines for Probate Court related actions. Look especially in chapters 851-882.

Q: Where can I find out more general information about Probate?

Check the Wisconsin Register in Probate Association website or the links on the Wisconsin State Law Library's Legal Topic Probate for more resources and information.


Q: Where can I find adoption forms?

Forms are available from the Dane County Legal Resource Center (608-266-6316) for a small fee. You can also download the forms from the Wisconsin Court Systems Website or the Clerk of Court Other Court Forms Page.

Q: Where can I find the law on adoptions, for example, who can adopt?

Chapter 48 of the Wisconsin Statutes (specifically § 48.81 to 48.978).

Q: Are adoption hearings open to the public?

No. Adoption hearings are closed to the public. Requests by the parties to allow family and close family friends to attend the hearing are generally granted by the judge.

Q: What is readoption?

Any child whose adoption would otherwise be valid under Wisconsin statutes may be readopted in this state. Often a child adopted in a foreign country by Wisconsin residents is readopted in order to obtain a Wisconsin certificate of birth facts for the child. In Dane County, the same adoption forms and procedures are used for a readoption.

The Dane County procedure for adoption and forms are available on the Other Forms page.

Q: After an adoption is granted, how do I get a new birth certificate?

After the adoption hearing, a check for the fee for generating a new birth certificate will be collected. The vital records department of the state of birth creates the new birth certificate. If your child was born in a foreign country, Wisconsin will create a certificate of birth facts. (The foreign birth certificate and English translation is required.)

Q: How do I obtain adoption records?

Adoption files are closed to the public. Adopted persons who wish to obtain information about themselves and their birth relatives, or birth parents seeking to give information to their birth children should contact:

Adoption Records Search Program
P.O. Box 8916
Madison WI 53708-8916
(608) 266-7163


Q: Are Guardianship records open to the public?

Records regarding guardianship of the estate of a minor or adult are open to the public, but records regarding guardianships of incompetent persons and guardianship of the person of a minor are closed.

Q: Where can I find the law on guardianships of minors?

The Wisconsin Statutes have several chapters that describe guardianships, but look especially in chapters 54 “Guardianships and Conservatorships” and 48 "Children's Code."

Q: Where can I find the law on guardianship of an adult?

The Wisconsin Statutes have several chapters that describe guardianships, but look especially in 54 “Guardianships and Conservatorships” and 55 "Protective Service System."

Q: How long does a guardianship last?

Per Wisconsin statute chapter 54 “Guardianships and Conservatorships”, temporary guardianships last for 60 days and can be extended for another 60 days. "Permanent" guardianships end when the child turns 18 or the Court orders the guardianship to be terminated.

Q: What is a Watts Review?

A court order for protective placement may be required to authorize a guardian of the person to place or keep someone at a nursing home or group home. These orders are reviewed each year to determine whether the person is in the least restrictive environment consistent with his or her needs and abilities. This review is known as a "Watts Review." An attorney will be appointed as Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to review reports about the ward and request a hearing before the court if appropriate.

Q: What if the guardian or ward moves?

If a ward moves, the guardian MUST notify the court in writing as soon as possible. In all correspondence with the court, please provide the case number, the ward's name and address and the guardian's name and address. Send correspondence to:

Probate Court
Dane County Courthouse
Madison, WI 53703

If a ward is being moved to a more restrictive environment (for example, from a group home to a nursing home), the guardian should also explain briefly the reason for the move and send a copy of the notice to Dane County's Adult Protective Services at the following address:

Dane County Human Services
Adult Protective Services
1202 Northport Drive
Madison, WI 53704

If a ward objects to this move, he or she is entitled to a hearing within 96 hours of filing a petition with the court.

Q: How do I end a guardianship?

Any interested person can ask the court to end the guardianship at any time. Usually a GAL will be appointed and sometimes a hearing will be held to see if termination is appropriate.


Q: Does the Probate Office provide safekeeping services?

You can deposit your own will in the Probate vault for safekeeping for a fee of $10. Only the person who wrote the will, or their written designee with the original receipt, can withdraw it. The written designation must be signed by two witnesses. There is an additional fee of $10 each time you replace a will or file a Codicil.

To file a Health Care Power of Attorney or Declaration to Physicians (also known as a Living Will), an $8 filing fee is necessary. Be sure to let the person you nominate as your agent know where he or she can find the document. Some people keep duplicate originals or copies in another location that is more accessible to close relatives and friends. The Wisconsin Guardianship Support Center can provide more information about advance directives. The Financial Power of Attorney is filed with the Register of Deeds office.


Q: Does the Probate Office have any historical records that would aid a genealogy search?

Many probate records go back to 1848. Cases commenced prior to 1992 are available only on microfilm. Copies made from microfilm are $1.00 per page. To search for information, you will need the person's first and last name and approximate date of death or date that documents were filed. The State Historical Society has duplicate records for cases filed before 1930 which may be easier to read, retrieve and copy.