Probate is a legal process to ensure that taxes and debts are paid after someone dies, and that all remaining assets are distributed in accordance with the law. Often probate is required only if the assets owned by the deceased are valued at more than $100,000. Not every estate is required to go through probate. An estate is simply a term referring to the assets and liabilities left behind when someone dies. For instance, an estate might consist of a house, a car, a bank account and debts such as a credit card and utility bills.
The average cost to settled an estate in Illinois through probate court is $12,500. A very small estate with no challenges and a competent executor may be settled for $4,000.00 to $6,000.00. If the will is contested, or there is significant debt or other disputes, the cost to settle an estate can be significantly higher and includes court fees, executor fees, attorney fees and other costs.
The stress and cost of probate will happen unless you take steps to avoid probate.
• A will can make the cost of probate more affordable and efficient.
• If you die without a will your estate is intestate, and it can cost more and take longer to settle the estate.
There are several ways an estate planning attorney can help you avoid probate
1. Give Away All Your Assets Before You Die
You can gift your assets to your beneficiaries. In 2021 the annual gift tax exclusion is $15,000. You can give $15,000 to any person in a calendar year ($30,000 for a married couple) without having to file a federal gift tax return and without it counting toward their lifetime exemption amount.
2. Put Property Into a Joint Tenancy
After someone dies, jointly owned property passes to the surviving owner. It is an easy way to avoid probate and does not require any additional paperwork. Illinois’ Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship means that two people – typically a husband and wife – co-own the property in equal shares. When one person dies, the other co-owner automatically becomes the owner of the property, even if there is no will. This is called the right of survivorship.
3. Create a Living Trust
In a living trust, your assets are transferred during your lifetime. When you die, the trust continues so that the assets do not need to be probated. A living trust may either be created as revocable or irrevocable. Illinois does not use the Uniform Probate Code so it can be beneficial to make a living trust to avoid Illinois’ complex probate process.
4. Set Up A Payable-on-Death Account
If you own real estate, a transfer on death deed (TOD) is an easy way for you to pass your property, such as your home, to your beneficiaries when you die without going through probate. A Totten Trust is a way to pass money, not property or other assets, to your heirs and avoid probate.
5. Name Beneficiaries on Your Accounts
Life insurance proceeds, savings accounts, retirement benefits and other accounts should have named beneficiaries. If your accounts name your chosen beneficiary, when you die your money in that account is directly transferred to your named beneficiary without undergoing probate.
If you want your estate to avoid the time, cost and stress of Illinois probate and protect your loved ones after you are gone, an experienced probate lawyer can advise you on the best options for your situation. To talk to a qualified probate attorney in Chicago or Lombard, contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835.
We serve Cook, Dupage, Kane, Lake, and Will counties.