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Probate in "Plain English"

The Chicago probate attorney of Sylvester Law Firm has represented hundreds of estates in Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida.

"Probate" generally refers to the process of administering a person's estate upon death. Probate is a process whereby:

  1. the decedent's Will is analyzed to determine if it is valid;
  2. creditors of the decedent are given an opportunity to collect on debts; and
  3. ownership of the decedent's property is legally transferred.

To get a better understanding of what has to be done during probate administration, here is a checklist of duties that we use when we represent executors:

Duty

Due Date

Initial When Completed

File Will with Court

Inventory Safe Deposit Box

Open Probate Estate

Verify Insurance Coverage where Needed

Compute Approximate Taxes and Administrative Expenses

Marshall Assets

Ascertain Creditors and Pay Debts

Mail Creditor Notices

Publish Claim Notice

File Proof of Mailing and Publication

Apply for Tax ID Number

Open Estate Checking Account

Notify IRS of Fiduciary Capacity

Transfer Funds to Estate Account

Collect Life Insurance

File/Mail Inventory

File Decedent's Final Income Tax Return

Decide on Estate's Fiscal Year

File Income Tax Returns for Estate

File Federal Estate Tax Return and Pay Tax

Request Prompt Audit of Tax Returns

File State Estate Tax Return and Pay Tax

Make Distributions

Pay Administrative Expenses

Close Estate as Follows:

FET Closing Letter

State Closing Letter

Prepare Final Report or Account

Pay Expenses of Administration

Record Notice of Probate and Release of Unsold Real Estate

Final Report or Account

Receipts on Distribution

Order of Discharge

Final Distributions

File Final Income Tax Returns

File Final Form 56

Here's a simplified example that will help you better understand the probate process:

Let's say that Tom Testator dies and leaves behind a Will that names his friend Ernie Executor as executor. The first thing Ernie should do is file Tom's original Will at the appropriate probate court. Next, Ernie needs to pay the required probate court fee and get assigned a date to appear before a probate court judge. On the day of the hearing before the probate judge, Ernie will ask the court to rule that Tom's Will is valid. Ernie will also ask the court to issue him Letters of Office. Once Ernie receives Letters of Office from the court, he will have the authority to serve as the executor of Tom's estate. At this point, Ernie is said to have "opened a probate estate." ( Notice that while Tom's Will indicated that Ernie should be the executor, Ernie does not have authority to act as executor until he receives permission from the court by way of the granting of Letters of Office.) Ernie will now work towards completing all of the probate procedures that are required by law. Now that the probate judge has determined that Tom's Will is valid, and has given Ernie permission to serve as executor, what should Ernie do?

Ernie needs to give notice to Tom's creditors that Tom has died and that Ernie is serving as executor. Ernie should give notice to creditors in two ways: First, Ernie should directly contact any of Tom's creditors that Ernie knows of. Second, because Tom may have some creditors that Ernie is not aware of, Ernie needs to "post notice" to possible creditors in a newspaper. Generally, what's next?

Ernie should gather and take control of Tom's assets. Ernie should open a checking account in the name of the estate after obtaining a tax identification number for the estate. The checking account will be used to hold cash in Tom's estate. The checking account will also be used by Ernie to pay the bills of the estate. For instance, Ernie may need to pay an attorney to help him properly complete all of the required probate procedures, including the filing of Tom's final tax return and possibly a tax return for the estate.

After Ernie has gathered all of Tom's assets and paid Tom's creditors, he can distribute the assets of the estate to the individuals and/or charities indicated in Tom's Will. After these distributions are completed, Ernie will petition the probate judge for permission to close the estate. If the probate judge is satisfied that all of Tom's creditors were paid, that the legatees named in Tom's Will received their share of the estate, and all of the required probate procedures have been completed, the probate judge will rule that the estate is now closed.

How long does the probate process last? Generally, the estate can be opened and closed within 7 to 9 months. Sometimes the process can take 1 year or longer, depending on the complexities involved.

You are welcome to call the Chicago probate lawyer of Sylvester Law Firm at (847) 251 - 2999 to learn more about the probate process and to get answers to your specific probate-related questions.

Sylvester Law Firm, PC - Chicago Attorney
1000 Skokie Blvd., Suite 320
Wilmette, IL 60091. View Map
Call Us Today 847.251.2999
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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.