For decades, many have failed to draft and sign a Will and die with no estate plan in place. In fact, based on various sources, between 55-60% of people do not have a valid Will. Reasons vary as to why, but one of those is the question “how much does a Will cost?” I think the more appropriate question is “how much will it cost if you don’t have a Will?”
In my previous articles on this site, I discussed what happens when someone does not have a valid Will when they die. There is a huge emotional cost if the parents die without a Will and therefore have not chosen guardians to raise their children. There is also a huge burden, financially and emotionally, when someone who is married with children passes without a Will, since it results in the surviving spouse receiving only one-half of the assets. (See articles posted in May and June) These two reasons alone, I believe, make a Will priceless, but let’s talk actual monetary costs of not having a Will. Probating an estate with or without a Will goes through very similar processes, with a few exceptions. These two exceptions are discussed below and can add additional expenses to the probate process.
When a person dies with a valid Will, their Will appoints an executor. However, if there is no Will, prior to commencing probating the estate, the Court will appoint an administrator. This adds an extra court date since the person wanting to be appointed as the administrator will need to file a Petition with the Court and give notice to the heirs of their intent to be the administrator. If no one objects, the Judge can appoint the administrator; however, if any of the heirs object, this could lead to additional attorneys’ fees and court dates. All the while, the decedent’s assets remain tied up and inaccessible to your heirs.
Once the administrator is appointed, Illinois law requires a surety bond to be paid. This simply means that the administrator ensures he/she will perform their duties properly. In Illinois, this usually ranges from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars based on the value of the estate. However, the surety bond can be avoided altogether with a Will since most Wills have a clause that states that the surety bond is waived and is not required to be paid.
So, your estate has likely already spent a few extra thousand on legal fees and surety bonds because you don’t have a Will and your estate hasn’t even started the formal probate process! This is money that could have gone to your family but instead was paid to lawyers and for court fees. Isn’t it worth spending a little money now on your Will than spending thousands later?
Stay tuned for Part 2 – the True Costs of Estate Planning “Probate and How to Avoid It.”