I was in probate court the other day, waiting for my turn in front of the judge. The waiting was nothing new. For those of you who do not go to probate court in Cook County on a regular basis, there is a lot of waiting.

On that particular day, the judge who was supposed to be in my courtroom was on vacation, and a different judge was filling in for her. This judge was determined to use this waiting time to deliver a message. Think of it this way, he had about thirty attorneys and some other people all sitting quietly with their cell phones turned off. Talk about your captive audience!


For reasons only known to him, he decided to use his time to give us advice. And boy, did he have a lot of advice to give. I was only there for about an hour, but I learned a lot! He told us to spread the word and get the advice out to friends, relatives and clients. So here it is, straight from the Probate Bench to you:

  • Write a Will and be clear:Don’t assume that your family will agree, understand or work things out. If you want to avoid expenses and give a gift to your family, have a Will in place. If you decide not to bother with a Will, your loved ones will jam the courts with random issues and make attorneys wealthy.
  • Avoid Probate:The probate courtrooms are booked solid, and the judges are overworked. The time, expense and frustration of probate is almost always avoidable. Do yourself and your family a favor, and get a plan in place that avoids probate. The money you spend avoiding probate is a fraction of the money spent in probate.
  • Don’t fight with your siblings:After the death of parents, it is almost inevitable that one or more of the kids will bicker. If families can get along, it will save heartache, time, and money, and will keep the courtrooms from being so clogged up with cases, motions and pleas. Build a consensus and get the agreement in writing, and one that is legally enforceable.
  • Be reasonable:Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. This can be very difficult after you lose someone you love. It does not, however, give you an excuse to have bad manners, or be challenging to work with. A little self-control and consideration can go a long way.
  • Assume nothing:Your turn may be next. Probate court is also guardianship court. The judge told us a story of a 37-year-old man who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. If you think it could not happen to you, think again. If you decide not to plan, the only thing on which you can plan is trouble.


After I finished with my client matter, I had to leave. If the judge had more advice, and I’m sure he did, I did not hear it.

Should you have any questions about probate or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847)253-8800 or contact us online.

Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, Business Immigration, Litigation and general Business Law services. Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law, Collaborative Divorce & Mediation.

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