The 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.
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.