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Probating a Loved One's Estate

There may be nothing you’d rather think of than the Probate process. However, death is inevitable for all of us, and immediately following the passing of our loved ones, some needs to handle things. While we hopefully have some wonderful memories of our loved ones who have left us too soon, the executor will eventually have to think about the financial situation that is left behind. They will need to begin the probate process and divide assets among heirs and settle any outstanding taxes and debts.

Will they have to go to probate court? Do other family members need to get involved? What if we do not want them to do so?

Certainly having some cooperation within the family is going to make the process go much smoother. But ultimately, the responsibility to pass the estate through probate will fall to the appointed executor of the estate in the last will and testament of the person who has passed away. So, what are the steps in the process?

I tell my clients that the first thing that they are going to need to do is grieve over the loss. The human element has to come first! Then I am careful to advise the executor that they should make sure that all property is accounted for and secured. They should pay close attention to those items that may have been listed in the last will and testament. Ultimately, we will need to provide for the proper distribution of these items to their intended recipients, but that is a few steps down the road. Securing the items needs to be done as quickly as possible before other surviving relatives decide to help themselves to property that they may be under the impression was promised to them.

After securing their loved one’s valuable possessions it will be necessary to file the last will and testament and petition for probate with the court. Once the court officially recognizes the person named as the estate’s administrator there remain a number of critical steps to take. They will inventory all of the estate’s assets for the court. A new estate checking account will need to be created in the name of the estate. This account will then be used in order to settle any outstanding debts, pay the deceased’s bills, and file taxes. A tax return for the estate must be filed or penalties may be charged. Once all of the creditors and other parties have been paid, the executor must file an account with the probate court and can distribute property as directed by the will.

In Illinois, there is also the possibility of using a Small Estate Affidavit and avoiding probate altogether. Though it is important to note that this only applies to estates valued at less than $100,000 and not involving any real estate. Utilizing a legal representative familiar with the Probate process can be extremely helpful. Please call us with any questions and we will be happy to assist where we can!

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