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Experienced Indianapolis Probate Attorneys Answer Frequently Asked Questions about Indiana Probate Law

Below are answers to some of the questions the Indianapolis probate attorneys at Lee Cossell & Feagley, LLP receive as they provide advice and assistance regarding the probate process in Indiana and Illinois. If you have other questions or need help in a probate matter in Indiana or the Chicagoland area, contact us at our offices in Indianapolis and Homewood.

Q. How much does probate cost?

A. While there is no pre-set cost to probate an estate, you can estimate the expense based upon the amount of work that is needed in your particular case. There may be real property or personal property that must be inventoried, appraised and sold. There may be debts owed by the estate that must be paid, or claims brought by creditors that are disputed and may have to be litigated or settled out of court. A final tax return must also be prepared and filed before the estate is closed.

In addition to court costs and filing fees, the above activities will most likely require the work of professionals, such as attorneys, accountants, and appraisers, who mostly charge an hourly rate for their work, with some fees set by the court. The cost of the probate process will generally depend on how much work is involved and whether a supervised administration or unsupervised administration is selected, all of which usually depends on how complex the estate is and whether there are any questions or disputes surrounding the will.

How long does probate last?

Probate has to be kept open for a certain period to allow potential creditors to present a claim against the estate. This claims period is three months in Indiana and six months in Illinois. How much longer probate lasts depends on how long it takes to settle those claims, liquidate the estate if necessary, distribute assets to heirs and beneficiaries, prepare and file taxes, and otherwise settle the estate. If there are no challenges or disputes among heirs, creditors or others, probate can be concluded in a matter of months. If you are an heir, you may be able to receive a partial distribution of your share under the will during the probate process without having to wait until probate closes.

Is it possible to avoid probate?

In some instances it is. Indiana law allows estates valued up to $50,000 to be handled either through a streamlined probate process or in some cases by affidavit outside of probate. In Illinois small estates valued at less than $100,000 can be handled through an affidavit process instead of probate.

There are also many different ways to remove assets from probate. For instance, placing assets into a trust removes them from the probate estate. Also, any property that transfers to another person upon death by operation of law does not have to be probated. This can include property held by joint owners, money in a joint bank account, life insurance policies, and pensions that have a designated beneficiary.

Even though it is possible to avoid probate, it is not always the best decision. If there are debts owed to the estate or other claims the estate can bring for the benefit of heirs and beneficiaries, it may be beneficial to open a probate estate to start collections or litigate the matter. For example, if the deceased was the victim of a car accident or medical malpractice, the estate may be able to bring a wrongful death action and collect money for the benefit of surviving family members.

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