Probate & Estates

When a person who owned assets dies in Illinois, a court-supervised process, known as probate, is usually required to settle the person’s estate. The estate is the property, debts and other obligations of a deceased person. The process of settling an estate includes the following:

  • Collecting and preparing an inventory of the assets the person owned at the time of his or her death
  • Paying outstanding debts, funeral expenses and taxes of the estate from the assets
  • Distributing the remaining assets according to the last will and testament that the deceased left or according to state laws of intestacy
  • Filing an accounting with the probate & estates court listing money and property taken in and what was paid out by the estate representative

The Circuit Court in Illinois handles matters involving probate & estates of those individuals who resided in the state at the time of their death or owned property located in the state.

Probate and Administration

If a person who dies had a last will and testament, the will must be filed with the Circuit Court in the county where the deceased person resided. The executor is the person named by the maker of the will to handle the estate and is usually the one who arranges for the filing of the will. An executor has no legal authority to act on behalf of the estate until he or she is appointed by the probate & estates court.

A petition filed with the will asks the court to appoint the executor as the official representative of the estate. Once appointed by the court, the executor has the same legal authority to handle the property and affairs of the estate that the deceased person had when he or she was alive.

A probate proceeding is the common term used to refer to the process of settling an estate where there is a will. If a person dies without leaving a last will and testament, the process is known as an administration proceeding. Anyone who is over 18 years of age may file a petition with the Circuit Court asking to be appointed as the administrator of the estate. Once appointed by the court, an administrator is the representative of the estate with the same powers as an executor.

Illinois Intestacy Law

A last will and testament contains the deceased person’s instructions that the executor must follow to distribute the estate. When the deceased does not leave a last will and testament, the estate is distributed according to the Illinois law of intestacy.

The intestacy law lists certain relatives of the deceased, beginning with spouse and children, in the order in which they are entitled to share in the distribution of the estate. For example, if a married Chicago resident with a child dies without leaving a will, the estate will be divided between the spouse and the child. Parents, brother and sisters, and other relatives of the deceased who are lower in order of entitlement than a spouse and child would not share in the estate.

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