PROBATE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What is "Probate"
Probate is the legal process of transferring the property of a deceased person to his or her heirs. It is overseen by the Circuit Court.
Don't I want to avoid Probate?
Illinois State's probate procedures are simple and inexpensive compared to most other states. Probate allows an orderly process that is an economical and efficient method for transferring property from a deceased person to the heirs.
How does a typical Probate work?
Typically the person named as Personal Representative (Executor) in the Will petitions the Court to appoint themselves to manage the probate process. The Executor is responsible for identifying all the estate's assets, paying the bills, finding the deceased's heirs, notifying potential creditors of the estate, and finally distributing the estate's assets to the heirs. At the conclusion of the Probate, the Court discharges the Executor. Usually no one is required to actually go to the Courthouse.
How much will a Probate cost?
The costs of probate vary, depending on the size and nature of the estate. A Will helps control the probate costs. Planning ahead by doing a complete estate plan will lower probate costs.
How long will a Probate take?
The time required to complete a probate varies depending on the specific factors involved. Six months is the minimum time allowed for Creditors to make a claim. If an estate is complicated with estate taxes owing, it can take more than a year.
How do I know if I need to start a Probate?
When someone dies, the person named as Personal Representative (Executor) in the Will hires an attorney and starts the probate. If there is no Will, an heir usually hires the attorney to start the probate. An experienced probate attorney will help you determine if you need to start a probate and, if so, will prepare the necessary documents. Even if you do not start a probate, you must file the original Will with the Court for safekeeping.
What is the difference between an Executor and a Personal Representative?
"Personal Representative" is the current term used instead of the old terms "Executor" (a man) or "Executrix" (a woman). Regardless of which term is used, this is the person responsible for administering the estate during Probate.
I'm named as the Personal Representative (Executor) in my uncle's Will, and he died last week. Now what?
First, you need to determine whether or not you need to start a probate. If your uncle has assets, usually the only way the Personal Representative can deliver the assets to the heirs is by having the Court give the Personal Representative the power to act. Contact a probate attorney to advise you. If you need to begin a probate, your attorney will prepare documents and file them with the Court along with the original Will. Once the Court has approved your documents and entered an appropriate Order, you will have the power to administer the estate.
Can I start a Probate if there is no Will?
Yes, an estate can be probated with or without a Will.
What do "testate" and "intestate" mean?
To die "testate" means that you had a valid Will at the time of your death. To die "intestate" means you either did not have a Will at the time of your death, or the Will was not valid.
Can't I use a Power of Attorney instead of starting a Probate?
No. You cannot use a Power of Attorney after the person dies. All Powers of Attorney become invalid at the time of the Principal's death. The Principal is the person who signed the Power of Attorney.