Films and television programs, as well as books and other forms of media, have certainly dramatized the will and probate process. More often than not, probate in Illinois is a dry, uneventful affair. Although contests do occur, as well as other conflicts regarding the deceased’s assets and the distribution of those assets, the reality of probate in Illinois courts definitely surprises some individuals.
As one of the top estate planning and probate attorneys in Chicago, attorney James C. Provenza has helped many people through the probate process, as well as a myriad of other estate planning needs. As such, we’ve witnessed the probate process first-hand, and can explain some of the common myths present in Illinois probate cases. If you need an attorney experienced in estate planning issues, or you’re preparing for a probate following the death of a loved one, it can be helpful to consult with an attorney who’ll work diligently for you. Call James C. Provenza & Associates today at (847) 729-3939.
In the meantime, you can learn more about some common Illinois probate myths below.
Myth #1 — Your family can sort everything out.
Unfortunately, this sentiment is common among individuals who choose to forgo a last will and testament. Following a death, the family’s ability to distribute assets is dramatically limited without the presence of a will. When someone dies without a will, his/her probate assets are distributed follow Illinois’s intestate laws. This essentially means that the government decides who will receive a percentage of the deceased’s assets.
Moreover, disputed wills and estate administration are hairy affairs. This can lead to a lot of animosity within families, and disputes can endure for several years. In some severe disputes, the legal costs alone can eat up a fair amount of the estate.
Don’t rely on your family to sort out your estate following your death. For one, Illinois law may not allow the family to distribute assets as the family wishes. Secondly, having a last will and testament not only covers finances, debts, properties, and possessions, but also who will take care of your children.
In any case, it’s good advice to have a last will and testament prepared by a trusted attorney.
Myth #2 — Illinois probate and estate administration are expensive.
One reason that many individuals forego comprehensive estate planning measures is due to an uncertainty regarding the costs. Because probate is essentially a legal process, some people believe that already contains a sense of costliness. It is important to note that probate and estate administration isn’t free; there will likely be several costs and fees throughout the estate administration.
For example, some estate expenses include:
- Attorney fees for representing the executor or administrator of the estate
- For intestate probate, where there is no will, an administrator serving as the representative may need a surety bond to ensure his/her performance as the representative of the estate
- The executor or administrator of the estate may also charge a fee for his/her time spent handling the estate (and for reimbursement for expenditures)
In addition to these fees, there may also be court filing fees. For court filing fees in the Chicago area, refer to the following links:
- Kane County Probate Court
- DuPage County Probate Court
- Will County Probate Court
- Kendall County Probate Court
- Cook County Probate Court
- McHenry County Probate Court
At this point, the costs of probate and estate administration are not cheap, but they are certainly not unreasonable. Rarely does a family find themselves in a worse position after probate. Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that debts (unpaid medical bills, for example) are not costs of the estate administration.
Myth #3 — The oldest child is entitled to be the executor of the estate.
Being the oldest or even the most responsible of your siblings doesn’t carry any weight in the probate process, especially in terms of who serves as the executor of a deceased parent’s estate. Instead, if the deceased parent named the executor in his/her last will and testament, then the courts are obliged to appoint that person (unless there is a good reason to not name this person as executor). If the deceased parent doesn’t have a will, then the Illinois probate courts will appoint someone according to Illinois law; often, the deceased person’s spouse is first-in-line, and the adult children come next. Furthermore, the adult children can also decide to be co-executors of the estate (though this can lead to conflict in the family).
Call Chicago Probate Attorney James C. Provenza
There are many myths surrounding probate and estate administration in Illinois probate courts. To make sure that you have correct information regarding this legal process, the best action is to consult with an experienced estate planning and probate attorney in Illinois. If you would like to speak with us at James C. Provenza & Associates about any estate planning matters, from wills and living trusts to probate administration, call our Chicago estate planning law firm today at (847) 729-3939.