What is an estate?
An estate consists of all of the property (assets) you own when you die. Your property can include money, real estate, physical personal possessions, and digital assets such as websites, documents, or blogs that exist online.
What is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process of settling an estate after someone dies. In Illinois a probate proceeding is required if the person who died had $100,000 or more in assets or the person owned real estate. The Court appoints an Executor (if there is a Will) or Personal Administrator (if there is no Will) whose job is to gather and take control of the assets, then make sure the decedent’s bills and debts are paid. There is a six month claim period in Illinois, during this time anyone who is owed money by the estate can file a claim to be paid. At the end of the claim period, the executor then distributes the assets to the people who are supposed to inherit. At the end the Court discharges the executor and the case is closed. The probate process usually takes about eight months, sometimes longer.
If someone has a Will, does that mean no probate is necessary?
No, probate could be required with or without a will. Whether or not probate is necessary depends on the value of the decedent’s estate. In Illinois, probate is required if the estate is worth $100,000 or more and is often required if the person owned real estate.
What is a small estate affidavit?
The small estate affidavit is a document signed under oath by a close friend or family member, in which the assets and debts of the estate, as well as all the heirs and beneficiaries are listed. A small estate affidavit can only be used if the estate is worth less than $100,000 and the person did not own real estate. The affiant (the person signing it) promises to pay the decedent’s debts before distributing any money to heirs. The affiant is personally liable for any mistakes and you may want to consult an attorney to be sure it is prepared correctly. The small estate affidavit can be used to settle estates without having to go through a probate proceeding in court. It can be used to close a bank account, sell a car or have a check reissued so it can be cashed.
What is an executor?
An executor, sometimes called a personal representative, is the person appointed by the probate court to have the legal authority to settle the deceased person’s estate. In your Will you can nominate someone you want to be your executor, but the person has no authority until they are appointed by the Court.
Do you need a lawyer for a probate proceeding?
An attorney is not required, but having an attorney assist you will make the process easier and save you time. The probate rules are complex, in addition to the Illinois Probate Act (click here to review the Illinois Probate Act) each county has its own local rules and procedures. The representative or executor is liable to creditors and heirs for any mistakes. The judges hold self-represented parties to the same standards as they hold attorneys.
What is a Trustee?
A Trustee is the person or entity (such as a bank) named in a Trust who has the responsibility and authority to manage the assets owned by the Trust and for carrying out the terms of the Trust. These terms might include paying bills and debts or distributing possessions and money to beneficiaries.
What is a Successor Trustee?
A Successor Trustee is the person or entity (such as a bank) named in a Trust who takes over the responsibilities of managing the Trust if the current Trustee is unable or unwilling to act. If you create a Trust, it is a good idea to name one or more Successor Trustees who can take over if you become incapacitated or die.