Probate is the legal process through which a deceased individual’s heirs receive his or her assets. It also ensures that the deceased individual’s outstanding debts and taxes are paid off using funds from his or her estate. In short, it is the court process used to oversee the “tying up” of any issues that need to be resolved after an individual’s death.
Not every estate goes through the probate process after someone dies. Certain assets are not subject to division through probate and in certain scenarios, it is not necessary. For many individuals working through the estate planning process, avoiding probate altogether is a goal.
Assets Subject to Probate
Jointly owned assets are not subject to probate. In Illinois, probate is only necessary if the deceased’s solely owned, nonexempt assets are worth $100,000 or more.
The following assets are not subject to the probate process. These assets instead pass directly to their named beneficiaries:
- Assets held in trusts, such as revocable living trusts;
- Assets with designated beneficiaries, such as payable-on-death bank accounts and retirement plans with named beneficiaries;
- Jointly held assets; and
Real estate properties with transfer-on-death deeds
How the Probate Process Works
It is a common misconception that having a will eliminates the need for an individual’s assets to go through probate. What a will can actually do is make the probate process easier by providing clear instructions for the court to follow when distributing a deceased individual’s assets to his or her loved ones.
In Illinois, probate is handled by the circuit court of the county where the deceased individual resided. The executor of his or her estate files the will with the court and may work with a lawyer to complete this process, which includes notifying all of the deceased’s heirs, whether they were named in the will or not, of the death and filing of the will with the court. The deceased’s creditors are also notified at this point through the newspaper.
Probate is generally a fairly straightforward process that takes about a year to complete. When there are no conflicts between the deceased’s heirs, the estate’s executor can usually complete the payment of the deceased’s debts and distribution of the assets to his or her heirs without much court oversight. When there are conflicts to work through, the court may supervise the process and require the executor to receive court approval before taking any actions. Once the process is complete, the executor files a final account of the assets and how they were handled with the court. After accounting for the distribution of the final assets, the court can close the estate. If you’re in need of a probate attorney in Chicago, contact us today.
Learn More by Talking to an Experienced Chicago Probate Lawyer
Probate can be a complicated process. Sometimes, it is possible to circumvent it completely or at least reduce the amount of time your family will have to spend in probate court later through strategic estate planning now. To learn more about these possibilities and whether they are applicable in your case, schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer.