The Illinois Will Probate Process: Settling an Estate

Web Admin - Friday, September 21, 2018
Arlington Heights estate planning probate lawyerThe passing of assets from one generation to the next is a long-standing tradition, typically governed by a written will. When a person with a large estate dies, a legal process called probate ensures that the terms of the will are properly carried out. The process of probating a will in Illinois is controlled by the Illinois Probate Act and the rules of the circuit court in the decedent’s county of residence.

When an Illinois Will Must Go Through Probate

An Illinois estate must be probated when its total value exceeds $100,000 (excluding jointly-held properties and accounts with named beneficiaries, which transfer automatically upon death).

The Process to Probate a Will in Illinois

1. Petition for Probate - The first step is to file a Petition for Probate with the circuit court. This petition includes the will itself, the current estimated value of the estate, the names and addresses of heirs, and other information necessary to begin settling the estate. The executor named in the will or their appointed attorney must file this petition within 30 days of the decedent’s death and send copies to all heirs.

2. Hearing to Open Probate - The court will conduct a short hearing to officially validate the will and admit the will to probate. At the hearing, heirs may enter their objections to any part of the petition, such as the validity of the will itself, the person(s) designated to administer the estate, or the person(s) designated to act as personal fiduciaries for any underage or disabled heirs. The court will approve the executor and issue letters testamentary that authorize the executor to act on behalf of the estate.

3. Inventory of Assets - The executor has the responsibility to locate and secure all assets of the estate. A written inventory must be made, listing all bank and investment accounts, real estate, and personal property of significant value. Appraisals may be necessary to establish date of death” values for each piece of real and personal property.

4. Payment of Debts and Taxes - The executor must notify all creditors of the decedent and pay outstanding bills, including property taxes and any other expenses necessary to protect the assets of the estate. The estate must remain open for at least six months to ensure that all creditors are identified and paid. The executor must also file final state and federal tax returns for the decedent.

5. Petition for Distribution of the Estate - Upon conclusion of the prior steps, the executor must provide an accounting of their work on the estate, including all receipts and disbursements. The executor will then ask the court for permission to distribute the remainder of the estate according to the terms of the will. (When there is no question that the estate contains more than sufficient funds to pay off all debts, some distribution of assets may occur before the final accounting.) 

Consult a Palatine Estate Planning Lawyer

Ensure that your hard-earned assets are distributed to your heirs according to your wishes. An experienced Barrington estate planning attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC can help you develop an estate plan that will meet your specific goals and, after your death, ensure that your will is probated efficiently. Contact us at 847-934-6000.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


New Illinois Law Affects Gifts to Caregivers

Web Admin - Thursday, November 13, 2014

Illinois caregiver probate, Schaumburg probate lawyerDrafting a will is an important step towards ensuring that a person's final wishes can be accurately carried out. However, there have been recent cases of elderly testators succumbing to the undue influence of caregivers or other people close to them, and altering their wills in ways that they would not ordinarily want to. In order to better protect the interests of people drafting wills and other documents to memorialize their last wishes, Illinois has passed a new law that alters the way that courts treat gifts to caregivers if someone contests the validity of the document.

Presumptively Void Transfers

In the event that someone legally challenges a bequest to a caregiver of more than $20,000, the court will apply a “rebuttable presumption” that the transfer is void. A void transfer would not go through and would instead be redistributed under other provisions of estate law. However, not all large gifts to caregivers would be void under the law. The law instructs the court to use a rebuttable presumption, which means that the caregiver is allowed to argue that the transfer was valid and should go through normally.

What the presumption does, essentially, is forces the caregiver to fight an uphill battle if he or she wants to claim the money. The caregiver would need to show by “clear and convincing evidence,” a higher than normal standard, “that the transfer was not the product of fraud, duress, or undue influence.” The caregiver also has another option to demonstrate the validity of the will. If the caregiver can show that the gift's size is no greater than it would have been before he or she became the caregiver, then he or she can overcome the presumption.

When the Law Applies

The law contains a variety of cutouts and definitions that make it more clear when the law does or does not apply. For instance, the law provides an exception for family members who act as caregivers. They will not have to face the presumption of voidness, though they do still need to deal with ordinary issues of fraud and duress. The law also sets out a definition of the types of documents that the rule applies to, which the law refers to as transfer instruments. According to the law, a transfer instrument is a document designed to cause a transfer of assets on or after the date of the transferor's death. These instruments can be wills, trusts, or contracts, among a variety of other types of legal documents.

If you believe that a family member's will was improperly tampered with by a caregiver, seek the help of a dedicated Schaumburg, Illinois probate attorney today. Our firm can help you learn about the options you have to make sure that your family member's final wishes are carried out properly. We assist clients in Inverness, Palatine, Arlington Heights, and throughout the Chicagoland suburbs.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.

An Overview of the Illinois Probate Claims Process

Web Admin - Thursday, February 13, 2014

illinois probate claims lawyerThe probate process in Illinois acts as a method of legally putting to rest the affairs of a deceased person. One of the most important parts of the process is the ability to file a probate claim. These claims allow creditors to attempt to collect on any debts that the deceased may have had. Illinois law establishes a strict hierarchy of these claims to determine which claims get paid out first.

The Claims Process

The claims process begins shortly after a person’s death. If the person has more than $100,000 in assets their family will have to open the probate process. This involves filing a will with the courts (if a will exists) and getting an executor appointed by the court. The executor will manage the administration of the will and is an important figure for creditors who want to file claims.

The law requires executors to publish a notice of probate in an appropriate newspaper to alert any potential creditors to the process. They must also send written notice to any creditors that the executor “knows or may reasonably ascertain.” Once a creditor receives notice of probate, they have six months within which to file a claim for payment from the estate. Any claims after this six month period will be barred by the court as long as the executor provided proper notice.

Once a creditor files a claim, the executor has three options: they may choose to pay it in full, they may attempt to settle, or they may refuse to pay. In the case of an executor who refuses to pay a claim, the creditor then has the option of litigating the claim in front of a judge to determine its validity.

Establishing Priority

Once the executor and the courts determine which claims are valid, they rely on the Illinois Probate Act of 1975 to determine what order the debts should be paid in. The Act divides claims into seven different classes, and pays them out in order. The seven classes are:

1.    Reasonable funeral and burial expenses

2.    Surviving spouse’s or child’s award. This is an award of enough money to the decedent’s spouse and children to keep them living in their usual lifestyle for nine months following the person’s death.

3.    Debts due to the United States

4.    Debts owed to employees, not to exceed $800, and debts dealing with the decedent’s last illness

5.    Money and property held in trust by the decedent

6.    Debts due to Illinois state and local government

7.    All other claims

If you need help navigating the probate process, contact an Illinois Estate Planning Attorney today. Our firm serves many different towns in the northwest suburbs including Palatine, Des Plaines, and Rolling Meadows.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.

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