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Lombard probate lawyersThe term “probate” refers to the legal proceedings which deal with a deceased person’s assets and debts. The probate courts are tasked with determining the validly of the decedent’s will, if he or she has one. If he or she did not have a will, the court will need to have much more involvement in the estate administration. There is a bit of confusion about probate, and many people are not sure what exactly it is. Read on to learn the answer to the most frequently asked questions regarding the probate process.

What Happens During Probate?

There are several things which typically happen during probate. If the decedent had created a will before he or she died, the judge will verify that it is a valid will. A will can be invalidated or thrown out if it is not signed by the testator (deceased person) and at least two witnesses, was forged, or if the testator created the will under undue influence. A will can also be invalidated if a newer will is discovered. Next, the judge will appoint an executor responsible for managing the estate. If the decedent had a will, the judge will appoint the individual named in the will. If there is no valid will, the judge will often appoint the next of kin as the executor. The executor is responsible for paying the deceased person’s final bills, notifying creditors of the decedent’s death, filing income taxes on behalf of the decedent, distributing assets to heirs according to the will, and more.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people are vaguely familiar with the concept of a last will and testament. However, there are actually many different documents that individuals use to distribute their assets and property upon their death. Wills and trusts sometimes get lumped together, but they serve different purposes. You may choose to use one, both, or neither based on your own personal circumstances and wishes.

A will is a document in which a person—the grantor—dictates what they want to happen to their property after they have passed away. He or she designates beneficiaries who then receive the assets and property upon the grantor’s death. A trust, by comparison, is a legal arrangement which allows a third party, called the trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries.

One significant difference between a will and a trust is that a will goes into effect only after the person who authored it, passes away whereas a trust can be effective immediately. Also, a will can only govern the distribution of property owned in the testator's sole name. Assets that pass directly to a beneficiary by contract or law, such as life insurance policies or joint tenancies with rights of survivorship, cannot be addressed by a will. Trusts, on the other hand, can manage and distribute any property the grantor chooses. Trusts can include life insurance policies and tenancy-in-common interests.

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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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Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning lawyersFor many people, estate planning is a vague, nebulous process that involves a person accepting his or her own mortality. Even among those who understand the importance of planning ahead, there are a number of myths regarding estate planning that continue to abound. A comprehensive estate plan is crucial to protecting your assets and your family’s financial future, and the process can be complicated if you believe things that simply are not true. Over the next several posts on this blog, we will address some of the most common estate planning myths, beginning with:

Myth: Estate Planning Is for Older People

Young adults, in many cases, are still shaking off their adolescent concept of invincibility, but it can take a while for that to actually happen. By the time they reach their 30s and 40s, they may understand that bad things can occur but still see estate planning as not quite necessary yet.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people think about estate planning, they think of wills, inheritances, and other ways to pass down a person’s property and assets to their heirs. Such an image is not necessarily wrong, but it certainly does not tell the whole the story. There are a number of reasons for estate planning that have very little to do with money and possessions, which makes the process important for every family, regardless of wealth or net worth.

1. Control Over Privacy

Without proper planning, your estate will be required to go through the process of probate, which is often long, cumbersome, and unpredictable. Probate is also a matter of public record, meaning your family’s affairs are made available to the general public. By taking steps in advance, you can limit the impact of the probate process and possibly avoid it altogether. In doing so, you can keep your personal details within your chosen circle.

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