The purpose of a last will and testament is for the person writing the will, known as the testator, to tell the world what he (or she) would like to happen to his estate upon his death. A will is a legally enforceable document. Under Illinois law there is a process called probate during which the executor of the estate will wind up the affairs of the testator, and ultimately distribute the assets in the estate according to the terms of the will. If you are concerned about the probate process related to the estate of a loved one, contact a will probate attorney serving Chicago at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates to discuss your concerns.Steps in Probate
The process to begin probate is initiated when someone submits the will to the Illinois probate court. Typically the executor is the person who submits the will to probate court. Also, a notice is sent to beneficiaries and heirs. A notice is also published in order to inform creditors of the passing of the decedent and of the existence of a will. Before the probate court judge will allow a will to be admitted, the judge will review it to make sure it is valid. The review of the will by the probate court judge is typically only a cursory review. If there are no glaring signs that there is a problem with the will, the judge will admit it to probate. This does not prevent someone from later filing a petition to challenge the validity of the will.
Upon admitting a will to probate the judge will also formally appoint the person named in the will as executor. This means that the executor will have legal authority to take steps to manage the estate. The first step is that executor must collect and inventory all of the assets in the estate. In order to make sure that the executor has an accurate understanding of the value of the estate, it may be necessary for him to bring in someone to appraise certain assets. Property included in a probate estate may include real estate, jewelry, artwork, bank accounts, vehicles, furniture, and other personal property.
After the executor has gathered and inventoried the assets and understands the value of the estate, he can go forward with paying debts owed by the estate. This includes the funeral and burial expenses of the testator, debts owed by the decedent at the time of his death, and taxes owed by the decedent or the estate. In addition, the executor has the authority to pay from estate assets expenses and fees related to the administration of the estate. In some cases, the estate may not have sufficient cash to pay all of its debts. If this happens, the executor has the authority to sell estate assets in order to pay debts.
As a Chicago will probate lawyer will explain, probate is not a quick process. It will take at least 6 months. Often it takes 12 months. There are also instances in which probate goes well beyond 12 months. This usually happens only when there are complications during the probate process. For example, if there are disputes such as a will contest, the probate process cannot move forward until the will challenge is heard and settled.Absence of a Will
If a decedent passes away without creating a will, the decedent’s estate will still go through a process similar to probate. However, it is commonly referred to as estate administration. During estate administration, an estate administrator appointed by the probate court will manage the estate in a similar manner to the way that an executor would manage the estate of a person who left a will. However, instead of the decedent’s assets being distributed to the beneficiaries that the decedent named in his will, the assets will go to the decedent’s heirs based on the rules of intestate succession. To learn more about intestate succession and what would happen to your estate in the absence of a will, contact a will probate attorney in Chicago.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
If you have questions related to probating a will or estate administration, it is important that you discuss your concerns with a Chicago will probate attorney who has significant experience. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have extensive experience representing individuals, executors, administrators, and estates in matters related to probate, planning, and probate litigation. Contact us at 855-454-5529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve individuals throughout Chicago.