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What Does “Probate” Mean in Illinois?


The probate process in Illinois is the process in which a person’s assets are distributed after they die. The probate process in Illinois may also be related to a person who has become permanently disabled and needs a guardian. The probate court will monitor the disabled person’s health and well-being, as well as their finances. This article will focus only on the probate process after a person dies. To learn more about the probate process for guardianship of a disabled adult, please see our Guardianship Law services.

After a person passes away, a probate estate may need to be opened. To determine whether a probate estate must be opened in court, the heirs of the deceased person or the executor of a will must review all of the assets of the deceased person. If the assets are greater than $100,000.00, a probate estate will need to be opened with the court. If the person owned real estate, including a home or parcel of land, a probate estate will also need to be opened with the court. However, if the deceased did not own real estate and did not have assets greater than $100,000.00, then a small estate affidavit may be utilized. A court proceeding may not be necessary. Illinois probate law provides the rules and requirements for a small estate affidavit, which can be used in lieu of formal letters of office from the court. You may also learn more from our article about small estate affidavits. 

The probate estate must be opened in the County in which the person lived before he or she died. For instance, if a person lived in Chicago at the time of his death, the probate estate would need to be opened in Cook County. On the other hand, if the person was living in Joliet at the time of her death, the probate estate would need to be opened in Will County.

If the deceased person had a will, the will must be filed within thirty (30) days of the death. The will must also be filed in the county where the deceased person lived prior to death. The original will must be filed and the filing must be done in person with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the appropriate county. The will becomes part of the public record and copies may be retrieved or reviewed.

The probate process in court does not have a time limit or time requirement under the law. However, opening the probate process in court as soon as possible may limit the amount of time creditors have to file a claim against the estate. For example, if the deceased person left any debts or bills, the creditors must notify the administrator or executor of the estate within a certain time period about the existence of the debt. Otherwise, the bills may not have to be paid. The period for which creditors can come forward may be shortened if the probate estate is opened in the courts and the appropriate rules are followed.

The attorneys at Hays Firm can guide you through the probate process, including helping you determine whether a probate estate in court is necessary. Although Hays Firm is in Chicago, we have represented estates that are administered throughout the state of Illinois. Please do not hesitate to contact our firm about an Illinois probate estate.

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