Probate is a court-supervised process that aids in distributing, sorting, and administering the deceased estate to the designated beneficiaries or heirs. Typically, the deceased person’s property is transferred to the beneficiary named in his or her last will. If the person dies without a valid will, the court will share the estate following Illinois intestate succession laws.
The formal probate process in Illinois will only occur if the deceased person had over $100,000 in assets and passed away without designating a beneficiary. The process also takes place if the deceased left real estate listed only in his or her name. The probate process in Illinois is carried under the Probate Act of 1975 (755 ILCS 5), and it includes the following steps.
1. Preparation and filing petition for probate
The probate process commences when the executor of the decedent’s representative files the will in the probate court. The filing acts as a petition to start the probate proceedings and for the court to recognize the executor’s authority.
If the court does not recognize any valid will, an administrator is appointed to help with the proceedings. All heirs, beneficiaries, and relatives are then identified and notified of the hearing.
2. Giving notice to creditors
The executor gives notice to any decedent’s creditors about his/her death and also notifies them that the court has initiated the probate process. The notice enables any available creditor to file a claim against the estate to seek outstanding debts. The notice has a fixed period on which the creditors should file their claims.
3. Estate inventory and appraisal to determine the estate’s value
The probate court requires the estate administrator to compile a complete inventory of the estate’s assets including;
- Bank accounts
- Real estate
- Stocks and bonds
- Motor vehicles, boats, and remote vehicles
- Valuable items like jewelry
4. Settlement of bills, debts, and expenses
Before transferring the estate’s property to the beneficiary, the estate administrator clears all the debts and expenses using the estate’s assets. Some of the common expenses paid include; all applicable taxes, family allowances, estate administration costs, burial or cremation costs, and debts. After settling the debts and expenses, the executor files a petition for final distribution and accounting.
5. Final distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries
The executor finally distributes the estate’s remaining assets to the heirs and beneficiaries listed in the will. If the person passes away without a valid will, the appointed estate administrator will distribute the property by the state’s intestate succession laws.