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Lombard IL estate planning lawyerWith just one glance at the hundreds of statutory provisions in the Illinois Probate Act, you can tell that the estate administration process can be overwhelming and complex. Unfortunately, it is usually necessary for most estates to go through probate. The timeline varies widely based upon the circumstances of the case, but the proceedings can take several months to more than a year. It can be disheartening to think about the time and cost involved, and you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to avoid the probate process. The good news is that there are multiple strategies for sidestepping a drawn-out court case, and one or more of them are often suitable to achieve many of your estate planning goals.

1. Joint Ownership of Certain Assets

For any real estate you currently own jointly, as well as property you purchase with someone in the future, you can title it as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” to avoid the probate process. It is also possible for joint tenants to have survivorship interests on a vehicle registered in Illinois. When this language appears on the deed or Certificate of Title, your interest in the asset passes to the other joint owners by operation of law when you die–not through the probate process.

2. Beneficiary Designations

Another way to pass on assets outside of probate is through beneficiary designations, which will also lead to an automatic transfer of ownership upon your death. Typically, you would include a beneficiary for a life insurance policy, as well as some bank and investment accounts. You can also name a beneficiary on an Illinois vehicle Certificate of Title.

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DuPage County estate administration lawyersIf you have started creating your own estate plans or you have recently lost a loved one, you may have heard the term “probate.” This term is used to refer to the legal proceedings which transfers a deceased individual’s assets to heirs. If the deceased person, or decedent, has signed a will before he or she died, the probate courts determine whether or not the will is enforceable and oversee the distribution of the decedents’ assets. If a decedent does not have a will or the will is not enforceable, the probate process is much more involved. Because it can often be time-consuming and expensive, many people try to avoid probate through careful estate planning.

What Happens During Probate?

The probate process differs from estate to estate depending on several factors. If the decedent had a will, the judge will ensure that the will meets the criteria required by Illinois probate law. Wills must be written and signed by the deceased person. If evidence exists to suggest that the deceased person wrote their will under undue influence or that the will is fraudulent in some way, the will may be invalidated.

If the decedent had identified an executor in their estate plans, the judge will assign this person several responsibilities. The executor must distribute the decedent’s assets according to the will, notify the decedent’s creditors of the decedent’s death, pay the decedent’s final bills, and file income taxes on their behalf. Generally, the executor role falls to the decedent’s next of kin if there was no prior determination regarding this important responsibility.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyAs you begin the process of estate planning, you are likely to hear that probate is a time-consuming, expensive series of proceedings that should always be avoided. This idea is prevalent in online resources about estate plans, but there is often little explanation given as to why—other than it can take a long time and costs money. Before you decide whether avoiding probate is necessary, it is important to fully understand the process.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a judicial process by which an individual proves in court that a deceased person’s will is valid. This process also includes taking inventory of the recently deceased person’s property, appraising the property, and distributing the property according to the will. If there is no will or other estate planning instruments in place, property will be allocated by the probate court in accordance with the state’s laws of intestate succession.

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