An Illinois man retired to Florida after a successful career as a physician. However, according to the Miami Herald, he did not have much time to relax. His wealthy mother-in-law’s estate was left to lawyers and court-appointed guardians in the probate process. Her children became embattled, fighting over accounts and assets. The man started an organization regarding probate guardianship in the hopes of preventing the situation from happening to others.

The probate process can be difficult, especially for those with large estates. As a Cook County estate planning lawyer would know, there are several ways to avoid going to probate court.

Simplifying the process

According to the Illinois Probate Act of 1975, going through probate is necessary when the decedent was the sole owner of property or all qualifying assets are more than $100,000. Fortunately, there are a number of assets that do not need to go through probate, such as the following:

  • Assets in a trust: People may place just about any asset in a living trust and then transfer ownership of the property to themselves as the trustee while also naming a successor trustee.
  • Assets that are payable-on-death: Retirement accounts, bank accounts, life insurance policies and other accounts that designate a beneficiary do not have to go through probate.
  • Assets that have a transfer-on-death policy: Vehicles and real estate may carry transfer-on-death documentation that permits the property to automatically go to the beneficiary.
  • Assets that are jointly owned: Due to the right of survivorship, any property or accounts that are jointly owned will be transferred to the surviving owner upon the other’s death.

A Cook County estate planning lawyer would explain that there are two types of joint ownership available in Illinois. The first is joint tenancy through which each owner has an equal share of the property. The second is tenancy by the entirety, which is solely for married couples or those in a civil union and only applies to real estate.

Giving a gift

One last way to keep property out of probate is to gift someone with the asset. This can work well with smaller and less valuable assets, as larger gifts may be subject to taxes. Those considering this route must gift the asset prior to death and speak with a professional about any circumstances that could complicate the process.

Avoiding probate in Illinois is possible for those who have taken the time to plan ahead. The state does offer a simplified process for those whose estates qualify. Anyone with questions regarding probate should consult with a Cook County estate planning lawyer.