What your family may need to know about the probate process

After the death of your loved one, you and other family members have the task of settling his or her estate and handling matters related to the deceased’s property. This can be quite a complex task, often involving much more than just distributing property according to the terms of the will. Estate administration requires paying off remaining debts, paying taxes and taking other steps to settle and eventually close the estate.

One of the likely requirements you will face during the estate administration is probate. This is a legal process of verifying a will and resolving all remaining matters associated with the estate before distributing assets. The probate process can be confusing and difficult, and your family may benefit from an explanation of what to expect before you move forward.

Understanding probate

Probate is the process of verifying a person’s will, settling outstanding legal and financial affairs, and ensuring that assets end up in the right place according to instructions left by the deceased. Depending on the type and size of the estate, as well as any disputes among heirs, the probate process can take a few months or longer. In most cases, you can expect the following steps during the probate process:

  • Probate starts with the location of the will, and a representative will file the will and other documentation with the probate court.
  • The probate court will appoint a person to oversee the process, known as the executor of the estate. Sometimes the decedent names a specific person in his or her will to fill this role.
  • The executor will locate, secure and place an appropriate value on assets associated with the estate.
  • The executor will notify creditors with an interest in the estate and pay off debts, and he or she will also file a final tax return on behalf of the estate.
  • After meeting other requirements, the executor will oversee the process of distributing assets according to the wishes of the decedent.

If you are the executor of an Illinois estate, or you are an heir to an estate, you will benefit from knowing how you can protect your interests during the probate process. Due to the complexity of this process and the possible issues that could arise, knowledgeable guidance at every step is important.


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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