Probate Court

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Probate Court handles such matters as Adoptions, Civil Commitments, Estates & Trusts, General Probate including Wills & Estate Planning, and Guardianship & Protective Placements. The majority of Probate matters are confidential in nature.

The Register in Probate is a part-time position appointed by the Racine County Judges.


Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents.  Unlike guardianship or other systems designed for the care of the young, adoption is intended to effect a permanent change in status.

Wisconsin law does not allow information about adoptions, birth parents, or individuals to be released without a court order. To get a court order you must complete a search request through the State Adoption Records Search Program.  This program is part of the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families. They can be reached by writing or by phone:

Adoption Records Search Program
PO Box 8916
Madison WI 53703-8916

More Information on Adopting or Adoptions at

Civil Commitments

Involuntary commitment or civil commitment is a legal process through which an individual with symptoms of severe mental illness is court-ordered into treatment in a hospital (inpatient) or in the community (outpatient). Commitment proceedings often follow a period of emergency hospitalization during which an individual with acute psychiatric symptoms is confined for a relatively short duration in a treatment facility for evaluation and stabilization by mental health professionals — who may then determine whether further civil commitment is appropriate or necessary. If civil commitment proceedings follow, the evaluation is presented in a formal court hearing where testimony and other evidence may also be submitted.

Under Wisconsin Statutes there are three types of civil commitments: mental, alcohol, and drug. Civil commitment cases are prosecuted by the Racine County Corporation Counsel. A person who is involuntarily hospitalized will be appointed an attorney through the Public Defender’s Office. A third-party petition may also be filed with the court and is coordinated through the Corporation Counsel’s Office.

Estates & Trusts

Administration of an estate on death generally arises if the deceased did not leave a will or some assets are not disposed of by their will.

Where a person dies leaving a will appointing an executor, and that executor validly disposes of the property of the deceased then the estate will go to probate. However, if no will is left, or the will is invalid or incomplete in some way, then administrators must be appointed. They perform a similar role to the executor of a will but, where there are no instructions in a will, the administrators must distribute the estate of the deceased according to the rules laid down by statute.

Certain property falls outside the estate for administration purposes, the most common example probably being houses jointly owned that pass by survivor-ship on the first death of a couple into the sole name of the survivor. Other examples often include discretionary death benefits from pension funds, accounts with certain financial institutions subject to a nomination and the proceeds of life insurance policies which have been written into trust. Trust property will also frequently fall outside of the estate but this will depend on the terms of the trust.

A trust is a relationship whereby property (real or personal, tangible or intangible) is held by one party for the benefit of another. A trust generally arises when property is transferred by one party to be held by another party for the benefit of a third party, although it is also possible for a legal owner to create a trust of property without transferring it to anyone else, simply by declaring that the property will henceforth be held for the benefit of the beneficiary.

More information can be found at the Wisconsin Register in Probate Association at

General Probate

Examples of General Probate include Powers of Attorney, Revocable Living Trusts, Wills & Estate Planning and Martial Property.

More information can be found at the Wisconsin Register in Probate Association at

Guardianship & Protective Placements

A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward. Usually, a person has the status of guardian because the ward is incapable of caring for his or her own interests due to infancy, incapacity, or disability. Most countries and states have laws that provide that the parents of a minor child are the legal guardians of that child, and that the parents can designate who shall become the child's legal guardian in the event of death.

Courts generally have the power to appoint a guardian for an individual in need of special protection. A guardian generally has responsibility for both the personal well-being and the financial interests of the ward. A person may also be appointed as a guardian but having limited powers over the interests of the ward. For example, a guardian may be given the legal right to determine the disposition of the ward's property without being given any authority over the ward's person. Legal guardians may be appointed in guardianship cases for adults (see called conservatorship). For example, parents may start a guardianship action to become the guardians of a developmentally disabled child when the child reaches the age of majority. Or, children may need to file a guardianship action for a parent when the parent has failed to prepare a power of attorney and now has dementia.

Guardian ad litem (GALs) are often appointed in under-age-children cases, to represent the interests of the minor children. GALs can be appointed by the court to represent the interests of mentally ill or disabled persons. The GAL is charged to represent the best interests of their client which can differ from the position of the state or government agency as well as the interest of a parent or guardian.

More information can be found at the Wisconsin Register in Probate Association at

Meet the Register in Probate

The Racine County Register in Probate became a part-time position appointed by the Judges after the retirement of Carol Mills in 2010. Carol served as Racine County Register in Probate for over 37 years.

Bruce Fishbain is the current Register in Probate and Probate Registrar.  Attorney Fishbain also acts as the Probate Court Commissioner.

First Appointed: 2017 
Education: Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis

Summary of Career at time of Appointment: Attorney with Bruce A. Fishbain Law Offices.

Contact Info:

Address: Racine County Courthouse, 6th Floor, 730 Wisconsin Ave, Racine 53403
Phone: 262-636-3137
Fax: 262-636-3870