If one of your primary motivations for creating an estate plan is to ensure that your loved ones are provided for in your absence, you undoubtedly do not want there to be a lengthy delay between the time of your death and the time estate assets are available to your family. If your estate must go through formal probate, however, that is exactly what could happen. The Geneseo probate lawyers at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP help you understand if whether your estate will be required to go through probate.
What Is Probate and Why Is It Required?
Over the course of a lifetime, almost everyone acquires assets that comprise their estate at the time of their death. Some people amass a huge estate that includes complex and valuable assets while other people own little more than their personal possessions at the time of death. Regardless of the size and value of assets owned by a decedent, those assets must be identified, valued, and passed down to the new owners. That is the primary purpose of the legal process known as probate. Probate also serves to authenticate a Last Will and Testament purportedly executed by the decedent as well as litigate any challenges to that Will. In addition, creditors of the estate are notified and provided an opportunity to file claims against the estate during probate. Finally, all taxes, including federal gift and estate taxes, owed by the estate must be paid before the probate process can reach its conclusion.
Why Should I Try to Avoid Probate?
For most estates, some type of probate is required; however, if formal probate can be avoided it should be. The reason for this is that formal probate is costly, both monetarily and in terms of time. In the State of Illinois, creditors have a minimum of sixmonths – and may have up to two years — to file a claim against the estate. That means that formal probate can take months, even years, to complete. All the while, the probate assets remain unavailable to the intended beneficiaries. In addition, the longer it takes to probate an estate, the more expensive it is because everyone involved (Executor, attorney, appraiser, accountant) is entitled to a fee for their services.
Small Estate Alternatives in Illinois
In the State of Illinois, when a decedent left behind more than $100,000 in assets and/or owned real property that was not owned jointly with rights of survivorship, the estate will likely be required to go through formal probate. If neither of those factors apply, the estate may qualify for a small estate alternative to formal probate. In addition, to use a Small Estate Affidavit in Illinois, the following must be true:
- All of the creditors will be paid.
- No creditors’ claims are contested by the administrator.
- There are no disputes between heirs and beneficiaries.
Keeping Your Estate Out of Probate Using Non-Probate Property
If your goal is to ensure that your estate avoids formal probate, one important strategy is to leave behind as many non-probate assets as possible because not all assets are considered probate assets. For example, assets held in a trust do not go through probate nor do proceeds from a life insurance policy. Titling jointly held property as co-owners with rights of survivorship also means that your interest in the property will pass directly to the co-owner(s) upon your death without having to go through probate.
Contact Geneseo Probate Attorneys
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have questions or concerns about keeping your estate out of probate, contact the experienced Geneseo probate attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.