Richard Hellerman
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Upon the death of an individual, the property in their estate will be passed on to his (or her) beneficiaries, if the decedent wrote a will, or to his heirs in the absence of a will. The process during which all outstanding issues related to the decedent’s estate are sorted out so that the property can be transferred to the beneficiaries or heirs is referred to as probate or estate administration. It is overseen by the Illinois Probate Court and managed by the executor or estate administrator. In Illinois probate typically takes between 6-12 months, but can take quite a bit longer if the estate is complicated. With years of experience representing clients in estate matters in Chicago, the Chicago estate lawyers at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have seen probate extend well past 12 months due to prolonged estate litigation.

Winding up an Estate

During probate the executor is responsible for making sure that your estate is properly closed. This means that he must collect the assets in your probate estate, inventory and appraise them, pay your creditors, distribute the assets to your beneficiaries, and file an estate accounting with the probate court.

Probate Property

It is important to understand that only property that is considered probate property is subject to the rules of probate. Typically, probate property includes personal property such as your vehicles, clothing, jewelry, collectibles, accessories, home furnishings, real estate than you own individually or as a tenant in common, and your bank accounts.

Property that is typically not a part of your probate estate includes bank accounts and other financial accounts with a pay on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) designation, retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k) plans with beneficiary designations, real estate and other property that you own with someone else as a joint tenant, life insurance, and trust property. Property that is not probate property will past to the beneficiaries outside of probate. This usually means that the beneficiaries will receive fairly quickly after the decedent’s death.

Estate Problems

During probate there are sometimes disputes and complications that can lead to estate litigation and that can cause delays in the distribution of estate assets.

Will contests. If an interested party such as a beneficiary or heir believes that the will is invalid, Illinois law gives them the legal right to petition the court to contest the will. However, to object to a will you must have legal grounds and evidence. Common grounds include lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, duress, fraud, and improper execution. If you are concerned that the will of a loved one is valid, it is critical that you immediately contact an experienced Chicago estate lawyer to discuss your concerns. The timeframe for filing a will contest is short. If you miss the deadline you will not be allowed to file your objection.

Objections to estate accounting. The executor is required to submit to the probate court an accounting of the activities he undertook in the process of winding up the estate. The accounting must include details of all of the money that went out of the estate, including payments to creditors, fees related to managing the estate, and distributions to beneficiaries. If a beneficiary or other interested party believes that there are discrepancies with the accounting fraud, that person may file an objection.

Objections to executor’s fees. Under Illinois law, executors have the right to receive a reasonable fee for perform his duties as an executor. However, if an interested party is concerned that the fees are not reasonable, he can file an objection.

Intestate Succession

If someone passes away without leaving a will, then that person’s estate will be distributed to his legal heirs based on the rules of intestates succession. This means that instead of the decedent’s property going to specific family, friends, and institutions selected by the decedent, the property will go to relatives based rules set forth in the statute. To learn more about the problems associated with intestacy, contact an experienced estate attorney in Chicago.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Managing an estate after a loved one’s death can be emotional and complicated. In order to minimize the possibility of disputes and other complications related to winding up your estate, it is important that you have a comprehensive, customized estate planned created by an experienced attorney. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience representing clients in estate matters in the Illinois Probate Court. Whether you are involved in an estate dispute or you have questions related to your estate plan, we have the skill and resources to help. Contact an experienced estate attorney serving Chicago in our office at 855-454-5529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve individuals throughout Chicago.

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"I’ve know Richard Hellerman for 30 plus years. I respect his judgement as well as his analytical mind. Have had the opportunity to see his high quality work as well as his unyielding dedication to his clients. Can’t recommend him enough." SB
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