Chicago Probate Lawyer
A Chicago probate lawyer at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt, P.C. can provide experienced and compassionate representation to clients involved in the probate process in the greater Chicago area. With years of experience and a dedicated support staff, we have the ability to capably and efficiently administer estates of all sizes, including estates with significant assets such as closely held business interests, as well as estates involving complex tax issues.
What is Probate?
Probate refers to the court-supervised process of proving the last will and testament of a deceased person, giving effect to the provisions of that will, and distributing the person’s estate according to the terms of the will. If a person died without a will, with assets titled in the deceased’s name, the estate will be distributed in accordance with Illinois law regarding intestate succession.
The probate process is designed to:
- Protect the intentions of the deceased and distribute estate assets to the intended beneficiaries
- Determine who will serve as the personal representative of the estate
- Protect the interests of creditors and others who may have claims against the estate
- Shield the personal representative against possible claims and lawsuits
Challenges may arise at any time during this process, and may range from disputes over the validity of a will or appointment of the personal representative to challenges to the final distribution of the estate. In the event that a dispute arises during the administration of an estate, our experienced litigators are prepared to protect the interests of our client.
What to Expect From the Probate Process in Illinois
The probate process starts with filing the file with the clerk of the court (if the decedent died with a will), along with a petition and other accompanying documents with the court, in the county where the decedent resided. The petition will be either a “Petition for Letters of Administration” (for intestate estates, when the decedent did not have a will) or a “Petition for Probate of Will and for Letters Testamentary” (for testate estates, when the decedent had a will).
An initial hearing on the petition is scheduled, and at this initial court appearance a probate judge will review the will and documents filed with the court. If everything appears to be in order and there are no objections, the judge will issue the Order opening the estate, appointing a personal representative, and ordering “Letters of Office” to issue, which serves to notify third parties (such as banks and financial institutions holding the decedent’s assets) of the decedent’s death, and informs them that the personal representative is authorized to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
Once the estate has been opened and Letters of Office issued, the personal representative of the estate should publish the notice of probate in an appropriate newspaper. This is an important step as potential creditors must file a claim against the estate within six months of the first publication of the notice. The personal representative must also give written notice to all known or reasonably ascertainable creditors of the decedent, who must take action within six months, or their claims will be barred by statute. The personal representative must also give notice of the opening of probate as well as a statement of their rights to the beneficiaries named in the will, or the decedent’s heirs if the decedent died without a will. The beneficiaries and heirs have the right to demand a formal proof of the will within 42 days of the will’s admission to probate, and six months from the will’s admission to probate to contest the will.
The personal representative will prepare an Inventory of estate assets and a Final Accounting to the beneficiaries and heirs. The personal representative will then prepare the Final Report to the court and distribute the remaining assets of the estate as set forth in the decedent’s will, or if the decedent died without a will, in accordance with Illinois law regarding intestate succession.
Seek Representation from an Experienced Chicago Probate Lawyer
Serving as the personal representative of a decedent’s estate is a significant responsibility involving many fiduciary duties and requirements. It is important to seek the guidance and representation of an experienced Illinois probate lawyer with expertise in probate administration and estate planning matters. Contact Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt, P.C. to schedule a consultation at one of our offices in Carol Stream or Chicago.