Unfortunately, not everyone leaves a will. A few of my ancestors had wills, but the majority did not. Most did not have wills because they had nothing of value. When a person dies without a will it is called intestate. If they own real estate or enough valuables and do not leave a will, their estate will go through probate court. An administrator will be appointed by the court to settle the estate. If they die leaving a will it is called testate and an executor is named in the will to carry out the provisions in the will.
There were no surprises in the wills I have found so far. But I had one ancestor, John Desens, that died intestate and his farm and personal property went through probate. I wanted to find a will to prove that he was my great-great grandfather. I was 95% sure that he was my ancestor through circumstantial evidence, but I had no documents to prove it. Instead of a will I found a probate file, and sent for it from McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire. When the probate file arrived, I was thrilled to fine the proof I needed. In the probate file there is a notarized letter from each heir that they are the son or daughter of John Desens, and they also name their brother and sisters in the letters. My great grandfather, Carl Desens, is the son of John Desens. This probate file has a lot of pages, and I couldn’t read some of them because they were copied from microfilm. Now the files have been digitized, and I found the entire probate file online at Ancestry.com and much easier to read. I just recently read the whole document. Sometimes you find interesting tidbits in probate files, and I found a winner in this one. I have already written about John Desens, but at the time I did not have all the information. To recap a little, John Desens was killed by his neighbor Fred Zell. It seems that Fred Zell tried to sue the estate for $5000 in damages done to his hand during the fight. The administrator of the John Desens estate counter sues Fred Zell for $5900. Here is a transcript of three interesting pages in the probate file. I highlighted in red the most interesting part.
State of Wisconsin Clark County County Court
In the matter of the estate of John Desens deceased late of the town of Eaton Clark County
Now comes C.H. Clute as administrator of the Estate of John Desens deceased by R. F. Kornitz his attorney and files this his objection to the allowance of the claims or any part thereof of Fred Zell filed against said estate in said Court on the 20th day of December A.D. 1900 for assault and battery to the damages five thousand dollars for the reason that the said Fred Zell did not prior to the death of said John Desens and does not now have any claim or lien and against said John Desens or otherwise in any manner whatsoever. And by the way of a claim or cause of action and counter claim to the pretended claim of Fred Zell against the estate of John Desens deceased filed on the 20th day of December 1907 in the County Court for Clark County aforesaid which is here in before objected to the said C. H. Clute as administrator of said estate and for the use and benefit of said estate by R. F. Kornitz his attorney alleges that C. H. Clute is duly appointed administrator of said estate and is now acting as such administrator of the estate of said John Desens deceased, and that he is prosecuting this claim for and in behalf of said estate and for its benefit and use. That heretofore to wit on the 26 day of June A.D. 1907 at the town of Eaton in said county upon information and belief the said administrator alleges that the said Fred Zell did at said time and place unlawfully, willfully, wrongfully and feloniously assault, strike, beat, bruise, cut, stab, kick, choke, throw down to the ground with great violence and while so down choke, stab, beat, and bruise the said John Desens and threatened to kill the said John Desens and put him greatly in fear of his life. That therefore and thereby the said John Desens was made sick, sore, lame, and disabled from attending to his business and to care for himself in any manner whatsoever from said 26th day of June A.D. 1907 to the time of his death thereafter. That his estate is liable and will be obliged to pay for medical attendance, nursing, medicines, food, and care caused by said unlawful assault to the damage of his said estate in the sum of five thousand nine hundred dollars. That this counter claim or course of action grew out of the same pretend tort and at the same time and place the pretend Claim of said Fred Zell is made against the estate herein.
Wherefore the said C.H. Clute as administrator and for the use and benefit of said estate demands judgement against the claimant Fred Zell that he take nothing by his claim and that the estate have judgement against said Fred Zell for the sum of five thousand nine hundred dollars damages and the costs and disbursements herein.
R. F. Kornitz
Attorney for C. H. Clute as administrator
for the estate of John Desens deceased
The part I was really interested in is where he describes how John Desens was beaten and stabbed by Fred Zell. Click here to read the entire story of John Desens Killed by Neighbor.
This was last weeks topic for 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. I am a little late in posting due to illness.
Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst
 Probate Case Files, Ca. 1873-1917, and Beginning with File No. 2699, Ca. 1900-1917, 1918 General Probate Index; Author: Wisconsin. County Court (Clark County); Probate Place: Clark, Wisconsin.