What to expect during the probate process

In Illinois, when a person dies, his or her estate may need to go through a legal proceeding known as probate. The probate process can be somewhat complex and confusing. There is simply a lot to do before beneficiaries can access their inheritance. There is a great deal that happens during the probate process. The best thing anyone can do is take it one step at a time.

Locate estate planning documents and open a probate case

The first step in the probate process is to locate your loved ones will or other estate planning documents. You may already know where these documents are, or you may have to search for them. After you find them, they need authentication to ensure they are valid. You may then file a petition to open a probate case.

Determine who the executor should be

Your loved one may have picked whom they want to be the executor of his or her estate. If not, a judge will get to decide. The executor is the person who is responsible for overseeing the probate process. This individual has the right to act on the estate’s behalf.

Inventory assets

The executors job starts with inventorying assets. This can be a tedious process but is highly important. You dont want to miss anything.

Notify creditors

Creditors have the right to notification so they can make claims on the estate. Once informed, they have a set period of time to file their claims to seek any money owed to them. If they fail to file in that time frame, they lose their right to seek payment.

Pay debts and taxes

The executor must pay all of the decedents valid debts, which they do with estate funds. They must also pay any final income and estate taxes.

Administer the estate

After completing all the above steps, the executor may distribute the estate to beneficiaries. If beneficiaries are minors, the executor may need to set up a trust to protect their inheritance until they are old enough to receive it.

Is probate always necessary?

No. Every case is different. If you aren’t sure if probate is necessary to deal with your loved one’s estate, there is no harm in seeking a professional opinion.


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The Law Office of William C. Wombacher

Local: 309-674-8125
Fax: 309-674-8149

Commerce Bank Building
416 Main Street Suite 700
Peoria, IL 61602
NELF | National Elder Law Foundation
CAP | Council of Advanced Practitioners | NAELA | National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc.
Illinois State Bar Association
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