A will allows you to leave your property to anyone you choose. For example, you can leave a portion of your estate to your immediate family such as your spouse, your children, your siblings, or your parents. You can also leave property in your estate to your good friends. Or, you can leave property to a loyal employee who has worked for you for years and years. Illinois law even allows you to leave property to charitable organizations, religious organizations, or educational organizations. The great thing about a will is that you have great flexibility in determining what happens to the assets in your estate. However, there are some instances in the which one of the individuals who decide to leave property to in your will is simply unavailable. When it is time to distribute assets to your beneficiaries, that particular person is nowhere to be found. This type of situation is problematic for your estate, for the executor, and may be problematic for other beneficiaries. In order to ensure that your assets go to the individuals of your choosing as described in your will, it is important for you to take steps in advance to avoid a missing heir or a missing beneficiary problem. Contact an experienced Chicago heir finder lawyer who can help you avoid the problems associated with a missing heir or missing beneficiary. If you are an executor and you are facing the challenges of a mess and beneficiary, we can help.Probate Process
When you pass away your estate will go through a process called probate. During probate your executor will complete the steps of winding up your estate with the ultimate goal of distributing your asset to the beneficiaries that you mentioned in your will. Probate involves the executor gathering your assets, appraising them, and paying any debts that you or your estate might have. Those debts may include bills that you had at the time that you passed away, as well as expenses related to the administration of your estate. Once your debts are paid your executor will then distribute your assets based on the terms of your will. If one of your beneficiaries is difficult to find, there may be a delay in distributing assets to all of the beneficiaries. Or, there may be a delay in closing your estate. The executor’s job is not complete until all of the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. After that is done the executor will file a final accounting with the probate court, and your estate will be closed.Intestate Succession
If you pass away without having left a will, your estate will go through a process that is similar to probate but is commonly referred to as estate administration. Instead of your property going to the beneficiaries that you named in your will, your property will go to your legal heirs according to the rules of intestate succession. Under these rules, your estate will go to your surviving spouse and your children. If you do not have a surviving spouse and you do not have children, your property will go to other blood relatives.
In such cases there are instances when a close blood relative is difficult to find. However, a distant relative who learns of your passing may come forward and place a claim on your estate. Before the estate administrator and the probate court will distribute your assets to this distant relative, the court may require an heirship hearing in which the purported heir will have to prove that he or she is indeed a blood relative. To learn more about heirship hearings, contact a Chicago heir finder lawyerConsequences of a Missing Heir
There are many reasons that a relative of a decedent may be difficult to find. Regardless of the reason, it is important that he be found so in order to close the estate. A missing heir will delay probate and may delay the distribution of assets to the other beneficiaries. It may also cause significant problems for the executor or estate administrator as one of his responsibilities is to distribute assets to beneficiaries.
However, the best way to avoid a missing heir problem is with careful advance planning with the help of an heir finder attorney in Chicago. For example, regularly updating you will to ensure that your beneficiaries include individuals with whom you still have a close relationship. Another strategy is to make sure your executor always has an updated list for the contact information for your beneficiaries.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
A missing heir can cause a variety of problems for the quick and efficient estate administration process. While estate administration normally takes 6-12 months in Illinois, a missing heir problem can extend the process. There are steps that you can take during your estate planning process to minimize the possibility that your estate will face a missing heir problem. The experienced heir finder attorneys serving clients in Chicago at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates are here to help. Contact us at 855-454-5529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve individuals throughout Chicago.