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Sue and Luke

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Closing Case Protection

Sue has completed all of her duties as executor of her dad Luke’s estate in the probate court, except for formally reporting to the court and officially closing the case.

To close the case, she presents a Final Report to the court with a supporting Receipt and Approval from herself as the sole beneficiary under the Will, plus Receipts from all the creditors she paid, and proof that she published notice in the newspaper to the creditors.  Her attorney will give these to the Judge and present an Order approving Sue’s administration of the estate, discharging Sue from her executor duties, and closing the case. 

The court’s order releases Sue from further duty as executor, so Sue can ignore later bills for her Dad that she receives.  Or, if she wants to stop the mail, she could send a copy of the final court order back to any creditors who send later bills.

Now that Sue has received the court’s seal of approval of her administration of the estate, that approval is available as part of the public court records.  That means anyone with any questions about it in the future could simply look in the court records to find out that Sue’s job is finished and nothing is left to be done on Luke’s estate.

For advice on taking care of a deceased family member’s estate, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Proving House Ownership

Sue has completed most of her duties as executor of her dad Luke’s estate in the probate court.  She’s paid the bills, worked on the necessary tax returns and is ready to distribute what is left of Luke’s estate to herself, as his only daughter and the only person he named in his will to receive his estate.

The money is “easy”.  Most of the money left in the estate account can be given to her by check.  Then she can deposit it wherever she wants, in her own name.  The small amount left is a reserve amount to allow her to pay the final expenses of closing the estate in the probate court.

The other major item left over is Luke’s house, which is what started Sue on this probate journey in the first place.  As executor, she can sign a document transferring ownership to herself. But she could also sell it to someone else and sign a deed finishing the sale to them instead.

If she chooses to transfer it to herself, that is considered taking an “in kind” distribution from the estate.  And the document she signs as executor proves she owns the house as an individual herself, so she can take out a mortgage on it, rent it out, or sell it in the future without the probate court.

For advice on taking care of a deceased family member’s estate, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Proving Tax Compliance

After some ado, Sue as the executor of her dad Luke’s estate in the probate court has now paid all of her father’s valid bills and received written proof of payment as needed for the court.  As Luke’s only daughter and the sole legatee (beneficiary) named in his Will, Sue is now ready to distribute what is left after the bills to herself.

But first she has to make sure the appropriate reporting is to made to the IRS by filing Luke’s final Form 1040 income tax return as well as the income tax return for the Estate, a Form 1041.  She must still be the executor appointed by the court to have the proper authority to sign the Estate’s return. 

Properly done, the two returns will divide the income received on Luke’s assets during the past year between Luke and the Estate, based on the date of his death.  Plus, the IRS will be informed of the death and the planned completion of the Estate so that it will not expect additional returns in future years.

It is a common mistake for family to be unaware that both a final personal income tax return and at least one Estate income tax return will need to be filed before the Estate is finished. 

For advice on taking care of a deceased family member’s estate, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Proving Payment Required

Sue, the executor of her dad Luke’s estate in the probate court, asked the judge to decide whether the interior decorating consultant’s claim should be paid.  The judge ruled that only $300 for the initial meeting was due, rather than the $30,000 claimed for custom-made furniture and further services.

Sue, therefore, has to pay $300 to the consultant.  The court will require proof of payment to be filed in the probate case before it will allow Sue to close her dad’s probate. 

The best way to prove payment is to file a signed Receipt/Voucher from the consultant with the court.  In return for providing the consultant with payment, Sue needs to have the consultant sign the Voucher acknowledging payment in full. 

If the consultant will not cooperate, Sue could delay payment to pressure her to sign a Receipt/Voucher.  If all else fails, Sue may be able to prove payment in full to the court by filing a canceled check showing that the consultant deposited the check.

Unfortunately, that is becoming more difficult with banking technology advances today that make receiving the original cancelled checks slower, or sometimes even impossible. 

For advice on taking care of a deceased family member’s bills and assets, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment. © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Prove It First

Sue, the executor of her dad Luke’s estate in the probate court, decided to deny the creditor claim filed by a fen shui/interior decorating consultant.  So far as Sue knows, the consultant only met once with her dad, and Luke told Sue that he wasn’t buying anything.

So Sue files written notice with the probate court that she is denying the $20,000 claim and sends a copy of it to the consultant.  Now the consultant has to prove her claim in court before Sue has to pay her.  Then either the consultant or Sue can make a motion to be heard by the court to decide.

To prove the claim, the consultant might be able to submit copies of order forms for custom-made furniture signed by Luke before his death.  At the hearing, the consultant presents her proof of the amount owed, and Sue presents what evidence she has, such as the fact that no furniture was ever delivered, to show that it is not owed. 

The judge rules on whether Luke’s estate has to pay the claim.  If the judge rules the estate does not have to pay, the consultant cannot take Sue to any other court to collect the money she says is owed, unless she appeals the probate court ruling directly.  And if the court rules the estate does have to pay, Sue will have to pay the bill before she can close the estate.

For advice on taking care of a deceased family member’s bills and assets, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Furniture?

Sue, the executor of her dad Luke’s estate in the probate court, is deciding about paying the creditor claims she has received from people saying Luke owed them money.  

Six of them were about what she expected, although her attorney told her about a few late fees and other charges that she would not have to pay.  However, the $20,000 claim from a feng shui consultant is not what she expected.  She remembers that her dad did talk to an interior decorator about two months before his death, but Luke said he didn’t like what she had to say and wasn’t buying anything.

Sue does not have to pay the bill just because the consultant sent in a claim to the probate.  As executor, she can request more information.  Then she can challenge the bill in court if nothing can be worked out with the consultant.

Here, the consultant’s more detailed bill shows the ordering of custom-made furniture to the tune of $13,000, plus a $5,000 fee to the consultant.  Delivery charges of approximately $2,000 are expected, with some deliveries supposedly already made. 

Sue did live with Luke, so she knows that no new furniture has yet come.  Plus, from her previous conversations with her father, she thinks he never ordered any furniture.  So she has decided to “deny” the claim to force the consultant to prove the claim in court.

For advice on taking care of a deceased family member’s bills and assets, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Probate Protection

The last time we checked on Luke’s estate, Sue, his only child and the executor of his will, published notice of the probate to creditors in the newspaper as required by the court.  Plus, she sent copies of the notice to all of Luke’s creditors she knew about.

That system is partly to be sure that her father Luke’s rightful creditors get paid from his estate.  However, it also can protect Sue from inaccurate or fraudulent claims of creditors. 

In order to be assured of being paid, each creditor must file a claim saying how much Luke owed to the creditor and what the bill was for.  After she receives the claim from the creditors, Sue can review them all.  If six look right in light of what she knows from previous bills or conversations with her dad before his death, Sue can tell them that she will pay them. 

But one of them came from “nowhere” so far as Sue can tell.  In probate, Sue can challenge that claim before she would have to pay it.  The feng shui consultant submitting a $20,000 claim would have to prove his claim to the probate court if she challenges it.  We’ll talk more about why she thinks the consultant cannot prove his claim in our next column.

For advice on taking care of a deceased family member’s bills and assets, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Protection From Late Creditors

Sue has learned that the court probate process is designed to be sure that her father Luke’s rightful creditors get paid from his estate.  However, the process is not a one-way street.  It also protects Sue from creditors who do not notify her that Luke owed them money in a shorter amount of time.

To do this, probate requires that Sue publish notice in a local Will County newspaper three times that Luke’s estate has been opened, that she wants to know about any creditor claims, and where any such claims should be sent. 

Sue also must send a copy of that notice directly to the creditors she already knows about soon after that.  But then the creditors have to file within six months of the first newspaper publication of the notice or forever hold their peace. 

That protects Sue from a creditor coming back in a year or more, finding out about Luke’s death, and then saying Luke owed them money after Sue thinks all is settled.  If there were no probate and its required notice, any creditors would have two years to let Sue know about Luke’s bills.

For advice on protecting your family from potential claims against your estate, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an estate planning appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Protection From Potential "Heirs"

Sue is learning that the court probate process protects her as well as any other potential beneficiaries and creditors of her father Luke’s estate.  Sue thinks she is Luke’s only child. However, a man a few years younger, Chandler, was raised by his mother to believe that Luke was his father; Luke denied it, and never spoke to his family about it at all.  

Chandler now lives in Arizona.  Since Chandler is not mentioned in Luke’s will, he might be able to challenge the will based on his paternity claim.  Probate requires that Sue give notice of the will and probate to all of Luke’s heirs.  Then those heirs can file a challenge to the will in court.  But they have to file within six months of the court admitting the will to probate or forever hold their peace. 

Sue does not know about Chandler or that he thinks he is also Luke’s son.  That makes Chandler an “unknown heir”.  When Sue publishes the Notice to Heirs in a local Will County newspaper in the legal notices, the court accepts that as sufficient notice even to Chandler. 

After six months, then, Chandler is barred from contesting the validity of Luke’s will.  That protects Sue from Chandler coming back in a year, finding out about Luke’s death, and then making a claim on Luke’s assets after she thinks all is settled. 

For advice on protecting your family from potential claims against your estate, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an estate planning appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Probate Protection For Sue

After widower Luke’s death several weeks ago, his only child Sue has discovered that she had to go to the probate court to get access to Luke’s money to pay his bills and get the leftover assets for herself. 

Although probate is designed to protect creditors and other potential beneficiaries from losing their fair share of a deceased person’s estate, it also can protect Sue. 

She found and filed Luke’s Will that leaves everything to her, names her to serve as executor, and waives her having to obtain an executor’s bond.  After preparing the Petition and supporting documents for the court, her attorney obtains a court order stating that Sue is the independent executor of Luke’s estate.

That means that only Sue is authorized to gather Luke’s assets and decide what bills to pay.  She authorizes her attorney and/or others to get confidential information about Luke’s money and property.  But Sue is the only one who can legally move his money, sell the house, or pay bills from his money. 

Probate court protects Sue from others getting to Luke’s estate assets too soon after his death, including creditors.  The probate process allows her the authority and time to properly determine what everyone’s fair share is.  For advice on avoiding or simplifying probate for your family in the event of your death, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an estate planning appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Others Protected By Probate

Sue’s father, Luke, passed away last week six years after his wife, and Sue is his only child.  At the bank, Sue has learned that she cannot get access to Luke’s money to take care of his estate without going to court. 

She finds this aggravating, and she has found his Will that leaves everything to her as expected.  So she asks again, why should I have to go through a court process when no one else has anything to gain or lose? 

Well, certain other people may have something to gain or lose, and probate is set up in part to protect them.  Those people are Luke’s creditors.  Luke actually owed $20,000 in back taxes and $30,000 in medical bills at the time of his death.

Those creditors are entitled to be paid before Sue gets any money from his estate over and above the funeral bill and expenses of probate.  If Sue could get the money without court, how would those creditors get paid if she had already spent Luke’s money before the creditors tried to collect?

Probate court is designed in part to prevent chaos and a race to the bank after someone’s death.  Getting to the money first with a good story should not be all it takes to get someone’s assets after his death. 

Court authority is designed to make it so everyone gets paid his or her fair share.  For advice on avoiding or simplifying probate for your family in the event of your death, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an estate planning appointment.  © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


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