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 one’s 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.
The executor’s job starts with inventorying assets. This can be a tedious process but is highly important. You don’t want to miss anything.
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 decedent’s 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.