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Understanding the Illinois probate process

One a loved one passes away, the estate may go through probate proceedings to ensure final matters are addressed.

When a friend of the family or loved one passes away, it can be difficult dealing with the strong emotions that are often involved with losing someone. In addition to the heartache, a personal representative must organize and oversee the deceased's estate to ensure the final matters are taken care of. The deceased may have named an executor in the will as the person to oversee these finalities. If there is no will the personal representative is known as the administrator. One of the most tedious tasks that the personal representative may face is going through the probate process.

What is probate?

Although it is not required in all cases, many estates will go through the probate process. This is designed to ensure all the estate's final taxes and debts are paid, and that the property is distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. The personal representative is responsible for handling the will, overseeing and protecting the estate, appraising the property and assets, paying off any final debt and then dividing the property to the rightful owners named in the will. If a beneficiary is underage or is disabled, money can be set aside in special accounts to protect them. A will gives the executor more options to help such persons.

Probate is required in Illinois if the estate is worth more than $100,000, or if the assets were solely owned by the deceased and were not placed in a revocable living trust. Any items or property that were jointly-owned with another party or had payable-on-death or transferable-on-death orders will not need to go through probate.

Going through the probate process

In order to initiate the probate process, the estate executor must file the proper documents with the Circuit Court in the county where the deceased passed away. The executor, or the attorney acting on behalf of the executor will send a notice to the deceased's heirs, to the persons named in the will, as well as any creditors that may be involved. A notice must be published in the newspaper. The personal representative must then gather up the property and assets included in the estate and keep them safe while probate proceedings take place. In addition to paying funeral and medical expenses from the estate, the personal representative must pay taxes on the property. At any time, heirs, beneficiaries and creditors have the right to dispute the will, which can lengthen the probate process. People may argue that the will was not signed under the right conditions, the personal representative did not fulfill their role, there was confusing language presented in the will or that the deceased did not have the mental capacity to understand what he or she was signing. Will contests are greatly feared, but they are very expensive and rare.

Getting the legal help you need

A knowledgeable Illinois attorney may be extremely helpful to those who are going through the probate process. Estate administration can be overwhelming, and it is often helpful to have someone who fully understands the laws and regulations involved to stand by your side. An estate planning attorney may ensure that everything is being handled properly.