When Is Probate Required In Illinois? Here's What You Need to Know

In the state of Illinois, probate is the legal process required for administering the property of someone who passed away. 

According to the Probate Act of 1975, 755 ILCS 5/Art. XXV, a formal court proceeding is not needed if your probate assets are valued under $100K and you don’t own any real estate. 

If you have property, business interests, or assets worth more than that amount, you should consider what the probate process involves as part of your estate planning strategy. Estate planning ensures your loved ones are provided for, your debts are paid, and your assets are distributed according to your exact wishes. 

Probate court can be a lengthy and unwelcome process during a highly difficult time. If you want to make things easier for your heirs and beneficiaries, you should seek legal guidance as soon as possible to create a plan. Here are a few crucial things to discuss with your attorney that can improve the experience for your family in the future. 

Making Your Plan

Your lawyer will help you designate a trusted person who can make health care and financial decisions with a power of attorney document. Medical directives, life insurance, assets, property — you’ll need to take a clear and accurate inventory and decide upon your beneficiaries. If you haven’t already, now is the time to write down your will and record exactly what you want to happen. 

If you want to save your heirs from the cost and hassle of going to court, there are three main ways you can protect your legacy from an exhaustive trip through probate: place your assets in a trust, share your property through joint ownership, or update your accounts with payable- or transferable-on-death designations.  

Creating a Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is something you could create right now, and it can include real estate, jewelry, digital property, and whatever other assets you desire. You’re the trustee with control until it passes to your successor. Establishing this type of trust is a wise move due to its many benefits:

  • Amendments can be easily made according to your wishes
  • Trusts are much more private than the probate process
  • It’s especially useful for keeping pre-marital assets separate
  • Eliminates the need for the probate court process
  • Provides guardianship designation for minor children and other dependents

If you decide to hire a professional to administer your trust, you can ensure the growth and management of your wealth for generations to come. You will need to incorporate the costs of advisor and trustee fees into your yearly budget.  

Forming a revocable living trust in Illinois takes some time and planning, and it costs more than making a simple will. However, the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks, especially if you have a family to provide for. You can also set up provisions for the caretaking of your beloved pets. Any property included in your trust is not subject to probate in the state of Illinois.

Taxes and Gifting

Taxes are inevitable, but there are steps you can take to lessen the burden on the people receiving your assets with smart planning in advance. If you don’t have a trust in place to manage your property when the time comes, assessing and paying taxes will be part of the lengthy probate process. 

The Illinois State Bar Association’s online estate planning guide states that you may want to consider lifetime gifts, similar to an annuity — if they’re under a certain amount, they are not eligible to be taxed. In some circumstances, you can also make payments directly to medical and education providers. Be sure to ask your attorney which options make the most sense for your estate. 

Estate taxes must be sent directly to the Office of the Illinois State Treasurer by the executor or administrator of the estate. If you’re founding a revocable or irrevocable trust for your heirs and legatees, they are not subject to taxes on distributions from the trust’s principal

Joint Ownership and Beneficiary Policies

If a property is owned jointly by two or more people, then the property passes to the surviving owner(s) automatically in Illinois, without the need for a will or probate. The Joint Tenancy Act, 765 ILCS 1005/0.01, guarantees this right of survivorship. 

Many financial institutions will allow your chosen beneficiaries to claim funds directly without the need to file paperwork and go through probate. If this is how you choose to disperse your wealth, then it’s absolutely vital to make sure this information is included in your last will and testament. Called a payment-on-death or a transfer-on-death designation, your financial advisor can assist you with these procedures.

Even if you’re using a living trust to manage the transition of your assets, you should still write a will. It documents many important decisions that cannot be handled by a trust, such as the disposition of your remains and your preferred funeral arrangements. If you do not leave one behind, then your estate is “intestate” and your descendants (according to state law) will eventually inherit. 

Would You Like to Meet With Experienced Estate Planners?

Protect your assets and ensure the people you care about are provided for with a comprehensive estate plan. For over two decades the Law Offices of J. Jeltes, Ltd. has served the greater Chicago community. Our skilled, compassionate, and knowledgeable attorneys can guide you through challenging family transitions, estate planning, and the joys of adoption. 

If you’re ready to help your heirs avoid the tribulations of the probate process in Illinois, then contact us today to learn more.