Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP Rock Island Illinois Probate Resources
If you recently experienced the loss of a family member, or someone else close to you, the last thing you may want to focus on is the legalities that are associated with death. If your loved one named you as the Executor of the estate, however, it means your loved one trusted you to be able to do just that. The same is true if your loved one died intestate (without a Will) and you are the logical choice to volunteer to oversee the administration of the estate. Retaining the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to assist you throughout the probate of the estate is the best way to ensure that you don’t make a costly mistake, particularly as you are still grieving the loss of your loved one. To get you started, the estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP have compiled some commonly used probate resources for the Rock Island, Illinois area.
Probate Basics for the Beginner
Following the death of an individual, the law requires the decedent’s estate to go through the legal process known as “probate.” Probate serves numerous functions, including gathering and eventually distributing the estate assets, authenticating and litigating and challenges to the Will, and notifying estate creditors and providing them with the opportunity to file a claim against the estate. The person who oversees the probate of an estate is referred to as the Executor and is appointed by the decedent if a Last Will and Testament was executed prior to death. If the decedent died intestate, or without a Will, any competent adult may volunteer to be the “Personal Representative(PR) and oversee the probate of the estate. To make things easier, the term Personal Representative is typically used to refer to either someone appointed by the decedent or someone who volunteers for the job. For more general information on the probate process, the American Bar Association has a section entitled “The Probate Process” on its website that you may wish to read. The Florida Bar has also published a pamphlet entitled “Probate in Florida” that you may find informative.
Probate is typically opened in the county in which the decedent was a resident at the time of death. If the decedent lived in Rock Island that will likely mean probate will take place in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Rock Island County Court. Most Personal Representatives (PRs) retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to assist during the probate process, particularly if the estate does not qualify for a small estate alternative to formal probate. If, however, you decide to proceed pro se, or without the assistance of an attorney, you will be expected to understand the Rock Island County Rules of Court as well as the applicable state and federal laws. In addition, Rock Island County has a self-help center for pro-se litigants and the Illinois Supreme Court’s website has a section entitled “Resources for Self-Represented Litigants” that you may find helpful. They county also has a forms section where you may find some of the forms needed to probate an estate; however, keep in mind that court staff cannot help you fill out the forms nor can they provide you with legal advice.
Finding the Right Attorney
Most PRs do decide to retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney too assist them throughout the probate process. AlongNot only can an attorney guide you through the process, allowing you to focus on grieving, but having an attorney on your side also dramatically decreases the possibility of making a costly mistake. A good place to start is with the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys website. The AAEPA is a national organization of attorneys who have chosen to focus their practice on legal issues related to wills, trusts, and estates. Membership in the AAEPA signifies that an attorney has proven experience in the areas of estate planning and/or elder law. In addition, the Rock Island County Bar Association offers a “Find a Lawyer” and the Illinois Bar Association IllinoisLawyerFinder service may be able to hep you find the right attorney to help you probate your loved one’s estate.
Personal Representative Resources
As the Personal Representative of the estate you will have numerous duties and responsibilities throughout the probate process. To get the probate process started you will need to file the appropriate petition with the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Court. When you file the petition you will need the original copy of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament along with a certified copy of the death certificate. You may obtain certified death certificates from the Illinois Department of Public Health. You will also likely need to conduct a thorough search to make sure you have identified all real property owned by the decedent. A good place to start is the Rock Island County “Chief County Assessment Office” website where you can conduct a search of the county property records. As the PR you will also be responsible for notifying all creditors of the estate that probate is underway. Known creditors may be notified individually; however, for unknown creditors you must publish a notice in a local newspaper. To accomplish that requirement, you may wish to contact the QCOnline to arrange for publication.
Paying Federal Gift and Estate Taxes
Because every estate is potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes, you will need to be familiar with how to calculate the tax and how to prepare the tax return. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website offers a general overview of the federal estate tax. They also have a “Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Tax” section that may be helpful. If it turn out that the estate does owe federal gift and estate taxes, any tax obligation due must be paid before any assets are transferred out of the estate. In addition, the State of Illinois also imposes an estate tax. Information regarding that obligation, along with downloadable forms, can be found on the Illinois Attorney General’s website.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the probate of an estate, please feel free to contact the experienced Rock Island, Illinois probate attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your free consultation.