When dealing with high-value estates, blended families often face unique challenges. Navigating the complexities of the probate process and making important decisions can be tricky when multiple families and many assets are involved.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal process of verifying and administering an estate after a person has passed away. When a person dies, their assets are left behind, and probate is needed to establish a valid will. In Illinois, the probate process involves:
- Appointing an executor
- Taking an inventory of the deceased’s assets
- Paying any debts or taxes and distributing the remaining assets according to the will
Challenges of probate
The probate process has many steps, such as identifying and appraising assets, paying off any debts or taxes owed by the estate and distributing assets according to the deceased’s wishes. In blended families, there may be multiple children, stepchildren and ex-spouses in addition to the current spouse. This can lead to complex family dynamics and competing interests. For example, the surviving spouse may want to keep the family home, while the deceased’s children from a previous marriage may want their share of the assets in cash.
High-value estates often require more time to sort through. There may be multiple assets to appraise and distribute, including real estate, stocks and valuable personal properties. In some cases, complicated family dynamics may cause disputes to arise between the surviving spouse and children from a previous marriage, leading to even more delays in the distribution process.
High-asset estates are often subject to significant estate taxes. In Illinois, estates valued at $4 million or more are subject to state estate tax. Inheritance taxes and further estate taxes may also apply. Tax liability can be divided among multiple parties, which can be helpful but may further complicate things between family members.
In high-value estates, accurately valuing assets can be challenging, especially for assets that may be difficult to sell, such as artwork or luxury real estate. Disputes about the value can complicate the probate process.
An attorney can help you understand the laws governing probate in Illinois and work to resolve any disputes that arise. With the right legal guidance, you can ensure that your loved one’s wishes are carried out as intended.