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Estate Probate

When someone passes away, there is a process called probate that the decedent’s estate must go through before the decedent’s property can be passed onto the beneficiaries that he named in his will. Probate involves the estates bills being paid, claims against the estate being settled, and ultimately the assets in the estate being distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. Probate is managed by the executor who the decedent named in the will. The Illinois probate court oversees the entire process, and the executor must report to the probate court. If you are an executor or a beneficiary, and you have concerns related to probate, contact an experienced Chicago estate probate lawyer who will listen to your concerns, and explain the best course of action.

When Probate is Required

Probate is not always required. Under Illinois law, if the estate is small, probate is not required. In order to avoid probate based on the estate being too small to qualify for probate, an Illinois Small Estate Affidavit must be submitted. The affidavit must state that the value of the probate assets is less than $100,000, that probate assets do not include real estate, and that there are no disputes related to heirship or related to the will.

Steps in Probate

Probate begins when the executor submits the will to the Illinois Probate Court, the probate court judge admits the will to probate, and the judge formally appoints the executor.

There are three major steps that the executor must complete during probate:

First, the executor must collect, inventory, appraise, and safeguard the probate assets. Probate property may include personal property such as clothing, jewelry, household furnishings, and automobiles. The probate estate might also include financial accounts such as bank accounts and investment accounts. The probate estate may include real estate such as the decedent’s residence. It is important for the executor to get an accurate appraisal of the value of each asset in the estate. The executor will have to use estate assets to pay creditors and to pay fees and expenses related to administering the estate. Ultimately whatever assets are left in the estate will be distributed to beneficiaries.

Second, the executor must pay the estates debts. Estate debts may include whatever bills the decedent had at the time of his death. This may include credit card bills, utility bills, and other household bills. There may also be claims against the decedent that have not been resolved. The executor is required to review outstanding claims against the estate and resolve them in the best interests of the estate. Settling claims against the estate may require the assistance of an estate probate attorney serving Chicago.

Third, the last responsibility of the executor is to distribute assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will. However, regardless of what the will states, the executor can only pay out what remains in the estate after bills are paid and claims settled. Once all assets are distributed from the estate the estate can be closed and probate ends.

Potential Problems During Probate

At anytime during probate a dispute may develop. For example, a beneficiary may believe that the will is not valid and file a petition to challenge the will. Beneficiaries may have disputes with each other because they are unhappy with what they received in the will. There may be disputes between the beneficiaries and the executor or other fiduciaries with respect to how those fiduciaries are doing their jobs. There may be objections to the estate accounting and objections to the executor’s fees. The probate court must review petitions submitted by interested parties, and must resolve them. However, any dispute has the potential of delaying the process. Probate is typically 6-12 months. As a Chicago estate probate lawyer will explain, if there is any type of estate litigation, the process can be significantly longer. In the meantime, estate assets cannot be distributed to beneficiaries.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you are an executor, beneficiary, or heir and have questions related to probating a will a d managing an estate, it is critical to you discuss these matters with an estate probate attorney in Chicago who has experience. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have extensive experience representing individuals, executors, administrators, and estates in matters related to estate planning, will drafting, and estate litigation. Contact us at 855-454-5529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve individuals throughout Chicago.

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