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Update Your Will and Avoid Probate Court

Update Your Will and Avoid Probate Court

Image of a house, probate estate planning

An updated will can protect assets that are meant to go to chosen family members and heirs when a person dies. Without a will, Illinois intestate succession laws will dictate through probate what happens to an individual’s business, savings, personal property, and possibly even minor children. If problems arise, a probate attorney can advise beneficiaries on how to settle the deceased person’s estate.

Updating a Last Will and Testament

Statistics show that up to 70 percent of adults do not have a last will and testament in place, and the adults that do may have a will that’s completely outdated. A will can be written at any stage of life, but it should be updated to reflect important changes including:

  • Change in marital status
  • Birth of a child or grandchild
  • Death of a family member or beneficiary
  • Death or name change of an estate executor
  • Sale or purchase of a property

Although some people update a will when beneficiaries fall out of favor, this can confuse a decedent’s final wishes. It’s best to update a will due to changes in circumstances, rather than changes in heart.

An outdated will or lack of a will can greatly complicate the estate process for those left behind, resulting in large legal expenses, unnecessary financial hassles, and even bitter family disputes. Going to court with a probate attorney may be necessary to protect assets left to the estate.

Avoiding Illinois Probate Court

Probate is a court-supervised process of gathering a deceased person’s assets and distributing them to heirs and creditors. Typically, the appointed executor of the estate or a probate attorney handles the probate process. Probate can be a costly and lengthy process that can take a few months or up to one year. If the will does not name an executor of the estate, the court will appoint one. The executor must prove the validity of the decedent’s will, list all assets and debts, and manage them during the probate process.

Probate court can tie up property for months, even years. It’s an expensive process that includes court fees, appraiser’s fees, and attorney’s fees when a probate attorney is required. By updating a will through proper estate planning, avoiding probate is much easier. In Illinois, a probate court proceeding may be required only if: probate assets are worth more than $100,000, and assets were solely (not jointly) owned by the decedent.

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