Once a will or intestate property goes through probate and is distributed, matters related to that estate are closed. There are, however, some circumstances in which an Illinois probate court will be willing to reopen an estate, so if you recently discovered new assets belonging to a deceased loved one’s estate or want to ensure that your own estate is not reopened after being resolved in probate court, please contact a member of our contested estates legal team for advice.
Why Would a Probate Estate Need to be Reopened?
Most petitions to reopen a closed probate estate are filed after a person discovers that a decedent owned other assets, the existence of which was previously unknown by the court. This includes real estate, as well as vehicles, bank accounts, retirement funds, bonds, securities, personal property, and business interests. However, a case will only be reopened if an asset is titled in the decedent’s name. Any property that is discovered after probate has closed but is jointly owned or has a designated beneficiary can be passed on without having to go through probate.
Similarly, courts are willing to reopen a closed probate matter if a new creditor makes a claim against the decedent and seeks repayment out of the estate. In these cases, it is important to ensure that the debt is legitimate and timely, as creditors are usually only given a brief window during which they can file a claim during probate.
The discovery of a new heir can also justify the reopening of probate if that heir would have been eligible to inherit the deceased’s assets under Illinois intestacy laws. Even in these cases, courts are usually only willing to reopen a case if the heir was legitimately overlooked. If, on the other hand, a potential heir was given notice of probate proceedings, but just failed to show up, he or she will have missed out on the opportunity to collect an inheritance.
Illinois probate courts are also willing to consider reopening a closed probate matter if there is evidence that the estate’s representative didn’t properly distribute the assets to named beneficiaries. Similarly, any fraud, wrongdoing, or dereliction of duty on the part of an executor or administrator can constitute grounds for the reopening of a closed estate.
Finally, the discovery of a new, valid will created by the decedent will usually justify the reopening of a closed probate estate. However, the document must be enforceable under state law, meaning that it was properly signed and witnessed and that the decedent had the requisite testamentary capacity at the time of its creation. There must also be clear evidence that the will was written later than the document that initially went through probate.
Call Today to Schedule an Initial Consultation
Petitioning the court to reopen a probate estate is difficult, and even if the petition is approved, the reopened case will need to go through a complicated court process. To learn more about what is required to reopen an estate from a dedicated contested estates lawyer, please call Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law at 847-325-5559 today.