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Lake Forest Illinois Trusts and Estates Law Blog

Ways to avoid probate litigation in Illinois

Some Illinois residents hesitate to execute estate plans for various reasons, often including the fact that they feel overwhelmed when thinking of all the issues they will need to resolve. Others simply do not like to discuss their own mortality or think about the possibility that they could one day become incapacitated and unable to make financial or medical decisions for themselves. However, many people, especially those who want to help their loved ones avoid probate litigation, would rather be proactive in organizing their own assets than leaving all such decisions to a probate court.

One of the easiest ways to help heirs and beneficiaries avoid probate battles is to transfer assets outside of court ahead of time. There are numerous ways to do this, including setting up a revocable trust. A right of survivorship can also be attached to jointly owned property so that ownership of the property in question automatically transfers in full to the surviving owner after the co-owner dies.

Probate litigation regarding Tom Petty's estate

Illinois rock and roll fans joined others throughout the country and across the world in mourning the sudden, unexpected loss of music icon Tom Petty. The former superstar's 2017 death sparked many a debate about prescription drug addiction. As often happens when celebrities die suddenly, it also prompted probate litigation between his then current wife and two daughters from a previous relationship. 

Petty's widow has asked the court to appoint a manager to her deceased husband's estate. She has also requested that the court restrict his daughters' ability to completely override decisions regarding their father's estate. Petty's daughter, however, has also petitioned the court, stating that her father had clearly expressed his wishes in a will, and that her stepmother is not abiding by the plan.

Do you think undue influence changed your parent's last will?

Most parents have a driving and powerful desire to provide for their children and even grandchildren. Wanting to see their lineage succeed is a natural impulse.

Some parents go so far as to discuss those desires with their children as they grow older. In fact, those uncomfortable discussions about the intended use for various household assets are often important for gearing children for the difficult reality of handling their parents' estate in the future.

Wills and trusts: Reasons they get contested

Many Illinois residents may become involved in probate litigation at some point in their lives. It can be difficult to resolve such situations. It can also be quite expensive, especially if a case is tied up in the courts for a long time. Understanding the most common reasons wills and trusts are contested may be helpful; it is also a good idea to know where to seek legal support, as needed.

One of the qualifying factors of a last will and testament is that the person executing the document must be of sound mind when he or she signs it. If a person writes or updates a will under duress, an undue influence complaint may be submitted in probate court. Another reason that a will might be contested is if fraud is suspected.

Helping heirs and beneficiaries prepare for the inevitable

Everyone is eventually going to die. While many Illinois residents would rather not talk about their own mortality, others understand that doing so can help them execute strong estate plans that allows them to choose how their assets will be distributed when the time comes to administer their estates. Even in closely-knitted families, disagreements often arise among heirs and beneficiaries, especially if the estate owners in question did not take steps to help them prepare.

An estate plan need not be complex to involve a lot of paperwork. From bank account information to medical records or other important documents, it is essential that appropriate parties be given access to any and all records pertinent to administration of the estate. All heirs and beneficiaries should also be made aware of specific designations in a particular estate plan, such as powers of attorney or executors. 

Avoiding inheritance disputes with careful planning

All of us would like to believe that our loved ones are not the type to fight over inheritance when we pass away, but for most people that is simply not true. Even strong, caring families with few internal conflicts can descend into who-gets-what arguments if they are motivated by financial gain or loss, or if some piece of property holds particular sentimental value.

No one wants to create conflict among the ones they love when they pass away, but more often than not, this is what may happen without a well-crafted will and estate plan that clearly outlines your wishes. If you want to avoid sparking conflict when you pass away, make sure to prepare your will and estate plan with careful attention, to keep your rights and wishes protected.

Wills and trusts: Valuable estate planning tools

When an Illinois resident executes an estate plan, he or she may customize the documents in accordance with his or her goals. For many, asset protection is a high priority. Others own businesses and want to protect those interests, as well as incorporate succession plans as part of their estates. There are numerous types of wills and trusts; while estate owners can choose which options best fit their needs, they'll want to avoid not having either because that can lead to probate complications down the line for loved ones.

Music icon Aretha Franklin died without executing a will or trust. She is not the only celebrity to do so. As is typically the case when celebrities or non-famous people fail to sign such documents, the Franklin estate is now caught up in probate litigation, which could have been avoided if she had written a plan to transfer her assets at the appropriate time.

Heirs of estate prepared to fight back over reverter clause issue

Illinois high school football fans often gather under stadium lights during annual seasons, cheering on their favorite teams. Many high schools play football or host other activities on land or in buildings that exist thanks to donations from benefactors who are now deceased. In fact, a school in another state plays all its home games on property that was donated by a local married couple in 1927. A legal problem has arisen regarding the land, and the heirs of the estate are speaking out against school officials, who have filed a lawsuit to gain control of the land.

It seems that some of the school's officials are concerned that the football field is too close to a busy roadway. They have proposed relocating the team to another field for its home games. The idea has sparked a legal issue, however, because the benefactors' heirs say there was a reverter clause in the estate plan that says the land is to be given back to the grantors or heirs if the school ever stops using it for athletics.

Estate litigation: Michael Jackson estate is suing HBO

A two-part series recently aired on Home Box Office that has upset the Michael Jackson estate. The music icon's drug-overdose death rocked the world in 2009. Some time later, the estate sold its stake in EMI Music Publishing to Sony, which generated $400 million to the estate in 2018. The recent subscription channel series has prompted estate litigation, with Jackson's estate filing a lawsuit against HBO.

In its claim, the Jackson estate states that by airing the series "Leaving Neverland," HBO violated a non-disparagement clause dating back to 1992. Leaving Neverland chronicles sexual assault allegations against Jackson, primarily focusing on two alleged victims, Wade Robson and James Safechuck. The men agreed to be interviewed for the series to share explicit details of alleged attacks against them by the now-deceased music legend.

Creating a trust means you leave something for an addicted heir

Watching someone you love sink into addiction is painful. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, there is really nothing that you can do to help your loved one overcome their addiction. Addiction tends to impact many people, as the addict can steal from or lie to family members and loved ones to continue accessing their drug of choice.

In many families, it becomes necessary to limit or even eliminate financial support for an addicted family member, as they may use the funds or assets they receive to pay for drugs and fuel their addiction. Sometimes, family members dealing with addiction choose to completely write someone out of a last will.

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