An important part of estate planning involves not only preparing for your own death, but also making sure that your loved ones are taken care of after you are gone. This is especially true if there are minor children involved.
Unfortunately, many people do not like to think about end-of-life scenarios, and as a result they are not as ready as they could be. Thoughtful preparation with an experienced estate planning attorney will not only guarantee that your loved ones will be taken care of, but also that less of your estate will have to go through probate.
What is probate?
Probate is essentially the legal process by which the deceased’s estate is distributed to heirs, and debts and taxes against the estate are settled. Depending on the size of the estate, as well as how the assets or property have been managed and whether it is jointly owned, not all estates will go through probate.
In Illinois, an estate that is worth less than $100,000 and has no land is considered a small estate. Illinois small estate procedures include the filing of an affidavit itemizing the deceased’s estate and how it is to be distributed, notarizing the affidavit and submitting it with a copy of the death certificate.
If there is a will, the probate procedure begins when the executor submits it to the county Circuit Court. If the estate’s assets are held mainly in an irrevocable trust, IRA’s or life insurance with designated beneficiaries, or is jointly owned with rights to survivorship, those assets will not pass through probate.
If there is no will, however, the estate will pass through probate and the state’s laws of intestate succession will apply. The court will appoint an executor to distribute the assets to heirs according to these laws, after debts and taxes against the estate have been paid.
When should I start planning?
There is no time like the present. It is important to make a will that states how you wish to have your assets distributed, and to have a plan that keeps more of your estate from going through probate. Managing your hard-earned wealth gives a security and peace of mind that comes from knowing that your assets are protected and that the people who rely on you will be provided for after you are gone.