A comprehensive estate plan in Illinois typically tries to accomplish more than one goal. While the primary goal of any estate plan is, of course, to determine how your estate assets will be distributed upon your death there often are a number of secondary goals that can also be incorporated into your estate plan. One of those common goals is probate avoidance. While there are a number of reasons why you want to avoid probate, the most practical reason is the costs involved in probate in Illinois.
Probate is the legal process required by the state of Illinois upon the death of an individual. The main purpose of probate is to ensure that all of the decedent’s assets are accounted for and legally transferred to the rightful beneficiaries or heirs of the estate. Illinois offers an alternative to formal probate for estates that qualify. If the value of the estate is less than $100,000 and other requirements are met, the estate may be probated to the use of a small estate affidavit. In estate that is probated through the use of a small estate affidavit will incur considerably less costs as well as take less time to complete then in a state that requires formal probate. An estate that is required to go to formal probate, however, will typically take months, if not years to complete and will incur numerous costs that can significantly diminish the value of the estate by the time all is said and done.
Probate costs begin when the probate process itself begins. The executor of the estate, or the personal representative if the decedent died intestate, will usually retain the services of an estate planning attorney to assist with the probate process because of the complexity of the legal issues involved. Both the executor and the attorney are entitled to a fee for their services. The longer the probate process takes the larger the fees for the executor and the attorney may be.
The larger the estate, the more costs that will be involved in probate estate as a general rule. This is one of the many reasons why a well-thought-out estate plan will work toward transferring assets out of the estate prior to the death of the estate owner.
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