You work hard for everything you have and want to make sure your assets end up in the right hands when you pass away rather than Uncle Sam’s or, worse, lost to cover legal expenses. Through estate planning, you may accomplish this goal. By having a solid estate plan in place, you may protect your assets and loved ones from severe taxation. You can also help your loved ones avoid probate litigation, which can be a costly affair in Illinois.
Probate is the process in which an estate is closed. It is often court-supervised; however, not every estate has to pass through court-supervised probate. The following things happen during the probate process:
- Will validation
- Debt repayment
- Tax payment
- Beneficiary identification and notification
- Asset distribution
Accomplishing all this can take several months — longer if anyone files legal claims against the estate.
Avoiding probate litigation
Probate litigation can occur for several reasons, but it primarily happens because someone is not happy with the status of the estate or how the executor is handling things. You can help your loved ones avoid litigation by:
- Having a clear estate plan
- Designating beneficiaires
- Setting up a trust
- Designating a trusted individual as executor
By doing all of the above, there won’t be much for anyone to fight about. If anyone does decide to pursue legal actions against the estate, they may not have a leg to stand on in court.
Setting up your estate plan
While it is possible to fill out standard estate planning forms downloaded from the internet, those aren’t likely to offer you and your loved ones all the protections you need or desire. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you create documents that meet your specific needs and state guidelines. It isn’t necessarily a difficult process, but it will take some time and effort on your part. A solid estate plan often includes:
- A will
- Powers of attorney
- A trust
You may also wish to include a letter of intent, titles and property deeds — basically anything that will make it easier for your family to locate your assets, and understand and honor your final wishes.
Have a will at a bare minimum
Without at least a will in place, probate may be unavoidable — unless you jointly own your assets, you’ve designated beneficiaries to specific accounts, or you’ve signed pay-on-death or transfer-on-death forms. So, bare minimum, it is wise to create a will if you want to help your loved ones avoid probate litigation down the line.