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Four Ways To Avoid Complicated Probate Hearings

Four Ways To Avoid Complicated Probate Hearings

Judge's gavel, probate hearing

In Illinois, parents have several options to transfer assets upon death without going through a lengthy probate process.

A probate attorney will use one of four routes to protect property from long probate battles.

Joint Ownership

Illinois families can file for join ownership status of most property and assets. The most common form of joint ownership is “Joint Tenancy”, a legal status where each person owns an equal share of a valuable asset, including real estate, bank accounts, and other property. Under the right of survivorship, any person listed as a joint owner automatically accepts the deceased party’s share of the property when another owner dies.

Living Trust

When a property owner creates a living trust, ownership of any property in the trust transfers to the trustee named in the documents. The person creating the trust maintains control while he or she is alive, but upon death, control of the trust transfers to the predetermined successor. Because the trust owns the property, and not the individual, transfers do not need to advance through probate.

Transfer On Death

Transfer on death (TOD) ,or payable on death, clauses are a good way to keep cash and other liquid assets away from probate court. As long as the account holder is alive, that person retains complete control over any money in the account; however, when the account holder dies, access immediately transfers to the listed beneficiary. Property, such as vehicles and real estate, may also contain TOD clauses, but will require additional registration with the state. A probate attorney is useful in crafting a TOD clause that meets the state’s legal requirements.

Simplified Probate

When the estate contains less than $100,000 and does not include land ownership, Illinois considers it a “small estate”. Small estates qualify for simplified probate that avoids probate court altogether. A probate attorney files an affidavit with the signatures of any heirs or beneficiaries. The document lists all of the assets, detailing how each asset should be distributed to the names on the affidavit. As long as the documents are uncontested, the affidavit is enough to settle the estate.

Avoiding a long probate is crucial to protecting assets from high court and legal fees. When making estate planning decisions, property owners can choose one of these streamlined options for property transfer, and eliminate the need for probate court.

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