Probate is the formal legal process of transferring a decedent’s assets to the his or her heirs. In Illinois, if a decedent died owning over $100,000 of assets, or real property of any value, the estate generally must be probated. An estate must be probated even if the decedent had a will. Generally, a fully-funded revocable living trust can avoid the probate process. However, if your loved one died without a fully-funded revocable living trust, his or her estate may have to go through the probate process before any assets can be distributed to their lawful heirs.
Probate generally involves the following steps, which could last anywhere from 6 months at minimum, to a year or more:
- Opening the estate
- Sending notice of the opening to appropriate parties
- Conducting an inventory of the estate property
- Obtaining a tax ID number from the IRS to prepare and file appropriate income tax returns
- Conducting any interim accounting
- Conducting the final accounting
- Submitting the final report
- Closing the estate
Despite the above, it is not uncommon for parties to attack or contest the probate process in the following ways, which prolongs the process:
- Execution of a Will. Illinois law has strict requirements and procedure for executing a will. If not properly executed, the will could fail and estate distributions will be per state law, not according to decedent’s wishes.
- Will Contest. If a contesting party can prove that the will was created by fraud or the creator was not of sound mind when signing, then the will could fail.
- Ambiguous Terms. A will can be contested by showing that the terms are too vague.
- Creditor Claims. Potential creditors can file claims against the estate for monies the deceased person owed them.
- Citations to Recover Assets. If someone refuses to provide the representative with assets of the estate, the representative must ask the judge to force that person to return the asset.
The Estate & Business Law Group wants to make this process as easy on you and your family as possible. When you meet with us, we will explain the probate process, assess your situation, and help you proceed.
As the named trustee of your trust, or if you are named as a trustee of a friend or loved one’s trust, you have been entrusted to see the objectives of the trust maker are achieved. As trustee, there are a number of matters that you must attend to initially, and on an ongoing basis. Depending on the status of the trust and the assets owned by it at the time you become the acting trustee, the process could either be simple or quite tedious and require locating countless documents, including: original estate planning documents, pour-over will, funeral and burial instructions, bank and brokerage statements, income tax returns, stock and bond certificates, life insurance policies, vehicle titles, utility bills, credit card bills, mortgages, and other important documents. In addition to the practical aspects of the trust’s administration, there are a number of complex tax considerations that must be evaluated on an annual basis. The trustee is then required to strictly follow the trust instructions regarding burial and funeral arrangements, distribution of personal effects, and specific bequests, among other responsibilities. This is only the beginning of settling the trust.
Luckily, the Estate & Business Law Group is skilled at trust settlement and guides clients through this perplexing, tedious process. As your attorney, we work hard to make these complex issues easily manageable and strive to be educators of this process along the way.
If you are in the prime of your business, you are likely not contemplating your exit plan. But as a business owner, creating and implementing a transition and exit plan is the most important business event of your life. If you pass away or become disabled before your exit is complete, financial security may be unattainable.
Each business owner has a unique background and each business has unique circumstances and goals. Business succession planning includes ways to ensure a smoothest exit, proper administration of owner transition, and achieving such plan at the smallest possible tax cost.
The Estate & Business Law Group will help you create the best plan to transfer your business. This includes assessing and increasing the value of the business, structuring your business to attract buyers, and minimize taxes. We will help you sell your business when and to whom you want and to get the income you want.