What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process through which a deceased individual’s heirs receive his or her assets. It also ensures that the deceased individual’s outstanding debts and taxes are paid off using funds from his or her estate. In short, it is the court process used to oversee the “tying up” of any issues that need to be resolved after an individual’s death. The probate process is lengthy and very court-process intense. Our qualified Chicago probate lawyers can assist you with organizing this process including: handling all court appearances, probate filings, public notices, assigning an “Executor” (or “Representative”) and also litigating any claims against the estate from creditors or family members.

Not every estate goes through the probate process after someone dies. Certain assets are not subject to division through probate and in certain scenarios, it is not necessary. Additionally, decedents who established a comprehensive estate plan with a living trust and/or will while they were alive, may allow their heirs to avoid probate altogether.

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Assets NOT Subject to Probate

Jointly owned assets are not subject to probate. In Illinois, probate is only necessary if the deceased’s solely owned, nonexempt assets are worth $100,000 or more.

The following assets are not subject to the probate process. These assets instead pass directly to their named beneficiaries:

  • Assets held in trusts, such as revocable living trusts;
  • Assets with designated beneficiaries, such as payable-on-death bank accounts and retirement plans with named beneficiaries;
  • Jointly held assets; and
  • Real estate properties with transfer-on-death deeds.

How the Probate Process Works

It is a common misconception that having a will eliminates the need for an individual’s assets to go through probate. What a will can actually do is make the probate process easier by providing clear instructions for the court to follow when distributing a deceased individual’s assets to his or her loved ones.

In Illinois, when a will is not present, probate is handled by the circuit court of the county where the deceased individual resided. A qualified family member, usually next of kin, files a petition with the court to become the “representative” and usually works with a lawyer experienced in probate law to complete this process. This typically includes notifying all of the deceased’s heirs and creditors through an approved method like a newspaper ad. Often, the representative is given authority to liquidate assets including real property, and to hold funds in a trustee with an estate bank account until all creditor claims are resolved and a final distribution can be made to the rightful heirs.

Probate can be a fairly straightforward process, but still takes about 12 – 18 months or longer to complete. When there are no conflicts between the deceased’s heirs, the estate’s representative can usually complete the payment of the deceased’s debts and distribution of the assets to his or her heirs without much court oversight. When there are conflicts to work through, the court may supervise the process and require the representative to receive court approval before taking any actions or distributing any funds. Once the process is complete, the representative files a final account of the assets and how they were handled with the court. After accounting for the distribution of the final assets, the court can close the estate. If you’re in need of a probate attorney in Chicago, contact one of our qualified attorneys today.

Probate Attorneys Serving Chicago, Illinois

ChicagoEstateLawyer.com is designed to help connect you with a probate lawyer located in, or serving the Chicago, Illinois area. We take great care vetting the attorneys we allow on this website, so that way you are guaranteed to find a highly qualified, local attorney. If you have recently lost a parent, and now must go through the stressful and time consuming Illinois probate process, it’s time to call a law firm with the experience to help you and get your questions answered today.

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Probate can be a complicated process. Sometimes, it is possible to circumvent it completely, or at least reduce the amount of time and money your family will have to spend in probate court later through strategic estate planning now. To learn more about these possibilities and whether they are applicable in your case, schedule a consultation with an experienced probate & asset protection lawyer.

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