While browsing the New York Times yesterday, I came upon the article entitled, “Avoiding Probate Can Pose Risks of Its Own.” On the heels of President Obama’s new tax laws, the Times reporter addresses the planning techniques people can use to avoid probate.

But, as the Times points out, without the proper knowledge people can get a false sense of security from wills and trusts. This is because non-probated items, which are not distributed through these documents, (retirement accounts, joint bank accounts, life insurance…) can cause  issues of their own. Forgetting to coordinate your estate plan with these other accounts can throw off all your intentions.


  1. Joint Bank Accounts: Even if you have distributed your estate in your will, if during your life you put a caregiver or loved one on a joint bank account, they will receive the money in the account upon your death – not who you listed in your will.
  2. Expenses: Did you address who is responsible for paying the various expenses that will arise such as estate taxes and the funeral bill? (Is there enough money in the estate?)
  3. Real Estate: Similar to joint bank accounts, if there is another name on the deed when you pass, that person will inherit the property, not the heirs.
  4. Life Insurance/Retirement Accounts: Make sure the beneficiary on your forms matches your will.

These are just some of the issues that could cause complications with your estate plan. To ensure your estate is distributed properly and your wishes are followed, hire an experienced Chicago probate attorney to draft and help execute your documents.

***To view the complete New York Times article, click here.

Jacobs, Deborah. “Avoiding Probate Can Pose Risks of Its Own” New York Times, Wealth Section, February 9, 2011.