Almost everyone becomes involved in the probate of an estate at some point during their lifetime. Your involvement could be the result of being appointed the Executor of the estate of a decedent or volunteering for that role for the estate of someone who died intestate (without a Last Will and Testament in place). You could also find yourself involved in the probate of an estate because you were named a beneficiary under the terms of a Will or are a legal heir to the estate. You might even find that you are a creditor of an estate. Regardless of the reason for your involvement in the probate of an estate, what you don’t know about the Illinois probate process could hurt you when the time comes. To help you better understand some probate basics so you don’t find yourself in trouble, an Illinois estate planning attorney can answer some basic questions about Illinois probate.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process that follows the death of an individual. Almost everyone leaves behind an estate when they die. A decedent’s estate consists of all assets owned by the individual at the time of death and may include things such as cash, securities, real and personal property, and anything else of value. Probate is required to ensure that those assets are properly accounted for, valued, and eventually transferred to the new owners. It also gives creditors of the estate the opportunity to file claims against the estate and ensures that all taxes owed by the estate are paid.
Who Is Involved in the Probate Process?
The most common people involved in the probate of an estate are:
- Executor or Personal Representative – an Executor is the person appointed by the decedent in his/her Will to oversee the probate of the decedent’s estate. A Personal Representative is someone who volunteers for the same position because the decedent died intestate.
- Beneficiary – someone named in the decedent’s Will as receiving a gift from the estate.
- Heir – someone who is legally entitled to inherit from the decedent’s estate in the event the decedent died intestate or there are any assets not accounted for by the decedent’s Will.
- Creditors – an individual or company that believes it is owed money by the decedent’s estate.
- Attorney – the Executor/PR will typically retain the services of an estate planning attorney to assist during the probate process.
- Appraisers – because all estate assets must have a date of death value if the estate goes through formal probate, professional appraisers are often needed.
What Happens If the Decedent Didn’t Execute a Last Will and Testament?
The estate is then considered an intestate estate and the Illinois intestate succession laws will determine what happens to the estate assets. Generally, this means only close family members will inherit from the estate.
Do All Estates Have to Go through Formal Probate?
No. Some small estates qualify for a simplified probate process called small estate administration that takes considerably less time than formal probate. If you are the Executor/PR be sure to consult with an estate planning attorney if you are unsure whether the estate qualifies for small estate administration.
What Do I Do If I’m a Creditor of the Estate?
As part of the probate process the Executor/PR is required to publish notice of the probate in a local newspaper to give potential creditors information about the probate of the estate. You then have six months to file a claim against the estate or you will effectively waive the right to do so. Consult an estate planning attorney if you are unsure how to file a claim.
How Do I Know If I’m a Beneficiary or Heir of the Estate?
As either a beneficiary or heir of the estate you should receive notice of your status; however, if you have reason to believe that you are a beneficiary or heir and you have not been notified, you can check yourself. As a general rule, probate proceedings are considered public information, meaning you can request a copy of the Last Will and Testament or other court documents.
If you have questions or concerns regarding the Illinois probate process, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.