In the heart of Cook County, a rising tide of property taxes is battering homeowners, while a wave of hope comes in the form of innovative estate planning tools designed to preserve family homes across generations. According to a study by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office, noted by WTTW News, homeowners in Cook County’s north and northwest suburbs are enduring a staggering 15.7% hike in property tax bills this year, hitting some towns like Rosemont, Schiller Park, and Des Plaines with increases up to a stifling 32%.
While wallets are getting thinner, the specter of tangled titles looms over many families, particularly where older adults have passed away without a clear estate plan. Kenneth Ratliff's story mirrors that of many in Chicago, struggling to keep the family home without legal proof of ownership as the bustling cityscape risks turning personal legacies into legal quagmires. He and other residents grapple with the arduous probate process, a court proceeding to gain rightful control over properties that lack clear succession plans, as detailed by the Chicago Tribune.
The silver lining for these beleaguered homeowners may lie in the Transfer on Death Instruments (TODIs), legal maneuvers enabling automatic transfer of ownership without the red tape of probate courts. Their popularity is evidenced by DePaul University's study showing 30,000 such documents filed over a decade. Yet this beacon of intergenerational wealth preservation shines against the backdrop of a real estate market inflamed by the Cook County Assessor’s Office reassessment, which has landed most heavily on residential properties after the hot market triggered heftier price tags on homes, according to a written statement obtained by WTTW News.
As school districts drive up levies and offices grapple with valuation shifts, Caroline Manley, executive director of the Center for Disability & Elder Law, called TODIs "a powerful tool to preserving intergenerational wealth," in her interview with the Chicago Tribune, and Linda Johnson of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation sees them as potential saviors for communities, having personally navigated the post-mortem financial labyrinth after her own family tragedies.