Does My Will Have To Go Through Probate In Illinois?

Does My Will Have To Go Through Probate In Illinois?

Provided By: Alan G. Orlowsky

Creating a will is important to ensuring an expedient and organized dispersion of assets to beneficiaries after death. However, there are certain circumstances where courts may need to validate wills and ensure certain debts and taxes are paid by the estate.

In these circumstances, executors and beneficiaries alike may need an experienced probate and estate attorney to help guide them through the process. While probate proceedings are usually a formality, in the event wills are contested or other issues arise having an attorney can be invaluable.

What are probate courts?

In Illinois, probate proceedings are heard by circuit courts in the district where the deceased resided. Larger circuit court districts may even have their own probate divisions specifically set up to hear these types of cases.

Following the deceased’s passing, his or her executor must appear in court to:

  • Ensure the deceased’s last will and testament is valid;
  • Identify and appraise assets of the deceased’s estate;
  • Distribute assets amongst the beneficiaries named in the will; and
  • Settle any outstanding debts or taxes on the estate

Probate cases are initiated by the executor of the estate, usually with the aid of an attorney. Once the petition is filed in circuit court, the executor must inform the deceased’s heirs and creditors of his or her passing.

To close an estate, the executor must submit a final accounting detailing how the estate was handled. This includes identifying property, dispersing assets, paying back creditors, and determining how any remaining assets will be dispersed.

Small estates do not need to go through probate proceedings

Estates with no real estate and valued at less than $100,000 usually do not have to go through the probate process. In these cases, beneficiaries may claim their assets by filing “simple affidavits.” These affidavits must usually be accompanied by:

  • Death certificate;
  • Basic information about the deceased;
  • Statement acknowledging no probate case is pending; and
  • Funeral expenses, taxes, and other debts against the estate are paid in full.

Issues in probate cases

In most cases, probate courts are a simple process focusing on documentation and paperwork. However, estates are sometimes contested by the beneficiaries or heirs excluded from the will and testament.

Contested wills may take months or even years to resolve. Typically, contested wills and estates surround issues of:

  • The will’s execution;
  • Executor misconduct;
  • Claims by creditors; or
  • Ambiguous or confusing language in the will.

Lake County probate attorneys

If you were named as an executor or beneficiary to an estate, retaining experienced and legal counsel can help ensure the final wishes of the deceased are carried out as intended. Furthermore, if you suspect foul play in the handling of an estate from which you feel you were owed assets, retaining a probate attorney to intervene in proceedings can prove extremely valuable.

For over 25 years, the estate, trust, and probate attorneys of Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. have advised families in their times of need. If you have questions about probates or wills, contact us for a consultation about your case. Our attorneys serve clients in Northbrook, Evanston, Skokie, Glenview, Glencoe, and Highland Park.


Updated as of July 2019
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