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Probate Court

Probate is the process during which the estate of someone who passes away is settled and the assets in the decedent’s estate are distributed to the beneficiaries that he (or she) named in his will. Probate is managed by the executor named in the will, and is overseen by a judge in the Illinois Probate Court. While probate is typically a long but straightforward process, there are occasions in which disputes arise involving the beneficiaries, heirs, the executor, or other fiduciaries involved in probate. When such estate litigation occurs, it is settled in Probate Court, by the Probate Court judge. To learn more about how probate works, contact an experienced Chicago Probate Court lawyer who will be able to answer all your questions related to how probate works in Illinois.

Steps in the Probate Process

Filing will with probate court. When someone passes away the executor files the will with the local Probate Court. This starts the process to begin probate. The executor must give notice to the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs. He must also publish a notice in local papers in order to alert the decedent’s creditors

Letters issued. The probate court judge reviews the will and admits it to probate. Letters of administration are issued to the executor, formally appointing him as the executor of the estate. This gives the executor the legal authority to proceed with the managing of the estate and ultimately distributing assets to the beneficiaries.

Inventory the estate. One of the executor’s first duties is to inventory and safeguard the estate assets. He then must determine the value of the assets in the estate. As a Chicago Probate Court lawyer will explain, it is important for the executor to understand the value of the estate as the executor must understand the value of the estate in order to pay creditors, determine estate tax liability, and distribute assets to the beneficiaries.

Pay estate debts. The executor is required to use estate assets to pay any valid claims against the estate and expenses. For example, the executor will have to use assets to pay the funeral expenses of the decedent. Assets can also be used to pay any final debts owed by the decedent. Expenses related to the administration of the estate are also paid by the executor out of estate assets. It may be necessary to sell assets in order to pay estate debts and expenses.

Pay taxes. The executor is responsible for paying any taxes owed by the estate including federal estate taxes and Illinois estate taxes. Are the current Illinois law, an Illinois estate tax return will be due if the estate has a value of more than $4 million.

Respond to claims against the estate. Disputes may arise during the process such as a will contest, disputes between beneficiaries, disputes between the executor and beneficiaries, and disputes involving other fiduciaries. It is up to the executor to respond appropriately to such claims.

Distribute assets to beneficiaries. One of the final responsibilities of the executor is to distribute the assets in the estate to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.

Estate accounting. The executor is required to submit a detailed accounting of the estate to the probate court. The accounting will include details about the assets in the estate immediately after the decedent’s death, all money and property going out of the estate including payment of bills and expenses related to managing the estate, and distributions to beneficiaries. The accounting must also include details about any money or property coming into the estate such as investment income and rent from investment property.

Closing the estate. Once all distributions are made from the estate and the accounting submitted to the court, the estate can be closed.

Absence of a Will

If a decedent passed away without leaving a will, his estate must still go through probate. The probate court will appoint an estate administrator who will handle the responsibilities of managing the estate. The assets will be distributed to the decedent’s heirs according to the rules of intestate succession. To learn more about intestate succession, contact a Probate Court attorney in Chicago.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

Probate can be a long, costly process. In Illinois it typically takes between 6-12 months. If the estate is complicated, probate can take a lot longer. If you have questions about how probate works, strategies to avoid probate, or if you need help resolve an estate dispute, the experienced Probate Court attorneys serving Chicago at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have the skill and resources to help. 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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