Metz + Jones LLC

How to Navigate the Illinois Probate Process

Losing a loved one takes an emotional and financial toll on family members. Having to navigate through the complicated probate process during this time makes it all the more difficult. Working with a seasoned probate attorney can help reduce some of the stress and confusion that families experience when dealing with probate cases.

What is the Probate Process?

Probate is the judicial process that occurs after an individual has died. The deceased person’s will is validated by the court and their assets, such as bank accounts, financial investments, and real estate, are then distributed to their beneficiaries.

Although it varies on a wide range of factors including the value of the assets in the deceased’s estate and the amount of debt still owed, the probate process can take as long as 12 months.

The average cost of probate in Illinois is approximately $4,000 – $6,000, but can be more or less depending upon the size of the estate and if anyone contests the deceased’s will.

There are five steps in the Illinois probate process.

  • File the Will and Notify Beneficiaries

First, the will is filed in the local probate court, an executor is appointed to the estate, and the family members of the deceased are notified. If the deceased did not have a will, the court will be asked to appoint someone as an administrator of the estate. Notice of the hearing is typically published in the county newspaper where the will was filed and also given to all the decedent’s heirs in case they wish to contest the will.

  • Notify Creditors

The executor of the estate must then notify all creditors to allow them to make a claim against the estate’s assets to satisfy any debts. Creditors must make a claim on or before the date stated on the notice.

  • Compile Inventory of Assets

It is the duty of the executor to take inventory of the assets of the estate. Assets might include:

  • Bank Accounts

  • Stocks & Bonds

  • Vehicles & Boats

  • Real Estate

  • Business Interests

  • Other Assets in the Estate

  • Pay Expenses

All expenses related to the probate process must be paid from the estate’s assets before any assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. These expenses are classified by the Illinois Probate Act and can include:

  • Any debts due to any city, township, or county in the state of Illinois

  • Any debts due to the United States

  • Money owed to employees of the deceased

  • Funeral and burial expenses

  • The surviving spouse’s or child’s award

  • Any miscellaneous claims

  • Court costs

  • Distribute Assets

The remaining assets are finally distributed to the beneficiaries after all claims against the estate have been settled and all expenses have been paid. The executor of the estate must then tie up any loose ends including creating new deeds for property, liquidating necessary assets, and transferring stocks.

Advantages of Hiring a Probate Attorney

The probate process requires a lot of time, records, and deadlines that must be kept. It can be an overwhelming situation for an individual still mourning the loss of their loved one. Hiring a knowledgeable probate lawyer can help lighten the load on grieving families and offer other helpful benefits including:

  • Complete Probate Process Faster

Hiring an experienced probate attorney can ensure each document necessary to the probate process has been properly prepared, completed, and submitted before stated deadlines. Any inaccuracies or mistakes can extend the probate process by months or even years, causing delays in court dates and the distribution of the estate.

  • Minimize Potential for Disputes

Having an attorney assist during the probate process can greatly reduce potential disputes brought upon by contesting family members or creditors. An attorney can ensure everything is being handled in a professional, efficient, and legal manner.

  • Save Time for Executor

The executor of the estate has a long list of responsibilities that must be completed in a certain order and by a certain time. Hiring an attorney well versed in probate law can help reduce the amount of time it takes to complete everything necessary for the probate process.

  • Prevent Personal Liability for Executor

As the executor of the estate, you can be held liable if there are any errors made during the probate process. Having a probate attorney working for you can prevent the risk of a personal liability case being brought against you.

  • Reduce Stress on Family Members

It is already an emotionally charged time for families who have recently experienced the loss of a loved one. A probate attorney can play the role of an impartial third party to prevent potential interpersonal issues from coming between the grieving family members and allows the executor time to focus on the family rather than the legalities of probate.

Chicago Probate Attorneys

At Metz + Jones, we understand that losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult time only to be made more stressful by the legalities of the complex probate system. Our legal team will offer sound advice, help resolve disputes, and guide you through the entire probate process while representing your best interests and protecting your rights. For more information on probate or estate planning and other legal services, contact our law firm to schedule a consultation.