Probate is the legal process to make sure that the deceased person’s debts and taxes are paid. In Illinois a lawyer is required for probate unless the estate is valued at less than $100,000 and does not have real estate; in that case the Illinois Small Estate Affidavit says the estate does not require a lawyer for probate court. This can reduce the time and cost to distribute the deceased’s assets. Even small estates with a clear will must fulfill all Illinois legal obligations. If the person executing the will does not comply with the legal requirements, they will be held legally liable.
During probate, the executor must ensure that bills are paid. The executor may have to sell assets to cover costs, debt and taxes. In addition, the executor must document the estate as a separate tax-paying identity with the I.R.S. and oversee the payment of all taxes.
Even for attorneys, probate law is complex if you are not familiar with the probate rules and court. In Illinois even if the size of the estate does not require probate, it can save time and money in the long run to ask a probate expert for advice.
It’s always a smart idea to hire an experienced probate lawyer to help execute an estate. But there are some instances when it is very beneficial that the executor or heirs hire a probate attorney:
1. Estate Debt – If someone dies and they do not have enough assets to pay the debt and taxes, it is likely the estate will be sued by creditors. An experienced probate or estate lawyer can advise you on the best options to settle the debt.
2. Inheritance Disputes – It’s not unusual for family members to dispute the terms of a will, particularly if there are large sums of money or emotional assets involved. Death and will cause family arguments and years of arguments and bad will. A probate lawyer can help resolve disputes between the heirs.
3. When There is a Business Involved – If a family business is divided among heirs or is sold to an outside party, a probate lawyer will make sure that the property transfer is legal and that all contracts and payments agreements are honored.
4. Protect the Executor – When the executor of the will is not a family member, or there is disagreement among the family members, a probate lawyer can help the executor avoid lawsuits. Even in an estate with a low asset value, the executor is legally responsible for paying tax and debts and distributing the assets.
5. Time Sensitive – Settling an estate can take time – sometimes much longer than originally estimated. When settling the estate needs to be done quickly – there are family members to take care of or if there is a demanding creditor or there is a business to manage – an experienced probate lawyer can help settle the estate quickly because they know the laws, the deadlines and the paperwork that needs to be completed to execute the estate.
Whether you are an heir, the executor of an estate or are planning your own estate to protect your heirs, an experienced probate and estates lawyer can advise you throughout the process. To talk to a probate, trust and estates attorney in Chicago or Lombard about how to make and store your will, contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-800-0112.