How to Prevent a Contested Estate in Illinois

IL estate planning attorney, Illinois probate lawyer, IL probate attorney, The time after a loved one’s passing is hard for all grieving family members, and it can be even more difficult when disputes arise over the decedent’s wishes or the validity of the will. As you prepare your estate plan, you should consider what you can do to prevent these disputes from happening after your death so that your family remains intact and well-provided for. The following tips will help prevent a contested estate.

Creating an Illinois Estate Plan to Minimize Disputes

Many contested estate disputes happen because family members are dissatisfied with how the terms of the will affect them, while others may be based more firmly on legal grounds. You should, of course, make sure that the terms of your estate plan reflect what you truly want, but there are also steps that you can take to help your family and beneficiaries understand your reasoning and show that you were of sound mind when making your decisions. These include:

  • Considering your family’s wants and needs. You may be able to prevent disputes simply by drafting your will in a way that accounts for the things that are most important to each of your beneficiaries. Consider which of your beneficiaries would be most in need of financial support after your death. If there are certain properties that are important to different family members, try to accommodate their desires when possible.
  • Discussing your estate with your family. The more open you can be with your family about your estate while you are alive, the less likely your will is to shock or upset them after your death. Regular conversations also give you the opportunity to address potential conflicts and can mitigate future claims that the will does not reflect your true wishes.
  • Keeping good records and following required procedures. Creating your will with the assistance of a qualified estate planning attorney can ensure that you follow proper protocol, maintain detailed documentation, and have reliable witnesses to your signings. This can help prevent contested probate on the grounds that the will was not lawfully created.
  • Choosing a trusted executor. Your executor can be a family member or close friend, or it can be an attorney or other professional. Choosing someone who your family members trust may help prevent claims of fraudulent execution or coercion at the time you created your will.

Contact a DuPage County Estate Planning Attorney

It is never too early to start focusing on estate planning and securing your family’s future. When you need a trusted advisor who can help you ensure that your will is valid and provides for all important beneficiaries, the attorneys at Stock, Carlson & Duff, LLC can help. Contact a Wheaton estate planning lawyer today at 630-665-2500.



Choosing an Executor for Your Estate

executorEstate planning is arguably one of the most important things a person will do during their entire life, and as such, everything matters. The slightest discrepancy may be attacked, and your wishes may not be honored if your estate is not set up and administered properly. Perhaps the most important choice you must make while estate planning is picking your executor, who can ensure that your wishes are carried out as you prefer and act on your behalf.

Responsibilities of an Executor

A person who has been named executor in Illinois has 30 days following the death of the testator in which to either submit the will for probate or refuse the appointment. The responsibility of managing another’s estate is significant, and with that in mind, it is important to pick the right person. The instinct for many is to choose their spouse, but this is not always the best choice, especially if you are of similar ages. He or she may be elderly and/or ill when the time comes for them to assume the role.

Whomever you choose must be able to fulfill all of the duties of the office. These include:

  • Informing the relevant authorities and your creditors of your passing, and in some instances, your family;
  • Paying any outstanding debts incurred in your lifetime by you or your estate;
  • Ensuring your spouse’s or family’s well-being until the estate is settled (i.e. paying rent or mortgage payments, bills, etc.);
  • Paying estate taxes;
  • Hiring the right attorney to help probate the estate; and
  • Dealing with any questions or concerns of putative beneficiaries during the process.

Generally speaking, an executor has a fiduciary duty to act appropriately toward all involved parties while safeguarding the assets of the estate.

Who Can Serve as Executor?

An executor has responsibilities that may last years and be quite complex in nature. Illinois, like many other states, does have restrictions on who may serve, though there are not as many as there are elsewhere. To serve as an executor, a person must be over the age of 18, a U.S. resident (not necessarily a citizen), and they must not have been judged to be incapacitated in any way by a court. They must also be free of any condition that would require guardianship.

It is recommended that you choose an executor who lives near you, but it is not absolutely required. However, you should be aware that if you do choose an out-of-state executor, they may be asked to post a bond by the probate court, so as to increase the chances of their successful oversight of the estate.

A Wheaton Wills and Trusts Attorney Can Help

If you are confused or conflicted about who to choose as your executor, you are not alone. The best solution for most is to consult an experienced estate planning attorney. Contact one of our knowledgeable DuPage County estate planning lawyers to discuss your situation today. Call 630-665-2500 and schedule a confidential consultation at Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC.



When is Probate Necessary in Illinois?

Illinois probate lawyersProbate is a court-supervised procedure in which the court determines who is supposed to inherit the assets of a deceased person. Though not always necessary, it is sometimes required. The following sections can help you learn more about the probate process in Illinois, including when it may be needed and how a seasoned attorney can help improve the outcome for entitled heirs.

When is Probate Necessary? 

Illinois’ probate laws are not dependent upon whether there was a valid will at the time of a person’s death. Instead, they focus on the assets that the individual owned and how they were titled. For example, assets that are found to be joint- or entirety-owned may be distributed without probate. Assets held in trust, assets assigned to a designated beneficiary (i.e. retirement accounts), and real estate assets with a transfer-on-death deed may be distributed without a will or probate as well. In contrast, an estate may be required to go through probate if:

  • The estate’s value exceeds $100,000,
  • Assets belonging to the deceased party were held solely,
  • There are concerns over the validity of the will,
  • The will contains confusing language,
  • Heirs cannot be easily identified,
  • Creditors make claims against the estate, or
  • The executor is suspected of wrongdoing.

Illinois’ Probate Process

To start the probate process, the estate executor must file paperwork with the Circuit Court in which the deceased party resided. (Note: If an executor of the estate was not named, or if there was no will, a vested party must step forward and ask to be appointed the estate’s administrator.) They must then gather, inventory, and safeguard all assets until they can be distributed. Typically, this occurs after creditors have been notified and valid claims have been paid. Taxes, which may be owed on estates that exceed $4 million at the state level and $5.45 million at the federal level, must also be paid before a distribution occurs.

Executors can usually navigate the process without gaining clearance from the courts, but there are situations in which the executor must gain clearance before every step. The latter is highly complex, and the assistance of a seasoned, competent attorney is highly encouraged. In all other cases, the path forward may depend greatly on the exact details of the case.

Contact Our Wheaton Estate Planning Lawyers

If you or someone you know needs assistance with the probate process, Stock, Carlson & Duff LLC is the firm to call. Our knowledgeable Wheaton estate planning lawyers are backed by more than 40 years of experience, and we preserve the best interests of our clients at every turn. Schedule your free and personalized consultation by calling 630-225-2500 today.