Illinois has long had a law which permitted the transfer of up to $100,000 in personal property at a person’s death without the need for probate. The law permitted the transfer by the completion and execution of what is called a small estate affidavit. Since a probate estate can take seven months to a year or more to complete and can involve attorney fees and costs of $2,000 or more, this alternative to probate can be very useful in the right circumstances.
Until the beginning of 2015, the small estate affidavit had a characteristic which severely limited the usefulness of the procedure, in that the affidavit could only be used where the estate had no debts other than funeral expenses. This changed through a law passed in 2014. Now a small estate affidavit may be used in estates which have non-funeral debts, provided all debts of the decedent are listed in the affidavit.
The person who signs the small estate affidavit becomes responsible for paying the debts. In addition, the signer becomes responsible for distributing the estate to its rightful recipients, who are also to be listed in the affidavit.
The small estate affidavit allows banks and other third parties who have possession of the decedent’s assets to transfer them in accordance with the affidavit. Further, the small estate affidavit may used to gain access to a safety deposit box of the decedent.
Feel free to contact an Illinois estate administration attorney experienced in the use of small estate affidavits at Kreisler Law if you have questions about the use of a small estate affidavit to avoid probate or any other area of the laws governing Illinois estate planning or Illinois probate or estate administration.