Useful information to help guide
your probate process

'Do I Want to Avoid Probate?'

Probate. It’s a word that describes the legal process by which the assets of a deceased person are distributed, as overseen by a court. It’s also a word which conjures fear in the hearts of many people.

These people – a group that may even include hardened attorneys and the wonkiest accountants – are often quick to say that probate can become an expensive, complex, or tedious nightmare, and that you should take care to avoid it at all costs.

But is the probate process really that bad? Should helping your loved ones avoid probate in the future be high on your list of priorities in the here and now?

Ultimately, a lot of the answer to that question will come down to your unique circumstances, including the size and complexity of your estate and the special dynamics of your family. With that said, there are certainly plenty of reasons why an individual and their family may want to take steps to make sure that an estate avoids probate.

For example…

Probate is Often Slow

As probate is a process that must be handled through the court system, it is often incredibly slow going. The process can stretch anywhere from six months to a number of years, depending on the size of your estate and the number of complications that come up.

This can be a long time for your family to wait for disbursements and access to your financial accounts – and it could put them on the hook for handling major expenses out of their own pockets until the estate can pay its own bills.

And with that being said…

Probate Can Be Expensive

Probate can cost a significant amount of money, even in the best of circumstances. Court filing fees and probate fees alone can eat into the amount of an estate by 10% or more, significantly affecting how much your heirs actually receive. And this is to say nothing of the professional fees from attorneys, home inspectors, accountants, and others, which often come hand in hand with probate.

Probate May Put Some of Your Personal Affairs Out in the Open

Probate is, necessarily, a public process. As it goes on, every document and piece of information brought up with the court becomes a matter of public record.

This includes matters relating to debts, assets, and distributions, which may be sensitive and which you may wish to keep private, whether to avoid personal embarrassment, disputes or contestations, or even making your family the target of scammers or thieves.

What Can I Do to Avoid Probate?

While all wills and testaments must be filed with a probate court, there are steps you can take to help make the probate process smoother and easier – or to help many of your assets bypass it altogether.

For instance, accounts held in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship typically avoid probate, as possession passes to the surviving owners automatically when one owner dies.

Similarly, there are processes that you can start early on – such as setting up a living trust for your assets, or naming beneficiaries for “pay-on-death”/“transfer-on-death” assets, which might include bank accounts, investment accounts, securities, vehicles, and even real estate – to help certain items bypass probate, for the sake of your loved ones’ well-being and privacy down the line.

In the end, the length and difficulty of the probate process for your estate will be determined by a variety of specific, individual factors – and by how much thought and care you put into the estate planning process, before it’s too late.

Working with a legal team experienced in all aspects of probate, estate planning, and estate administration may be one way to help chart the best course for your unique circumstances. Having a compassionate, objective expert on your side could set you up for greater peace of mind down the line – and help ensure that you’re able to provide for your family when they need it most.

Have any further questions about estates or probate in Illinois? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Chicago Probate Law to get the conversation started.

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