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.