Skip to main content

What is probate?

Probate is the court process by which an administrator or executor is appointed to wind up and resolve a decedent’s estate, as directed by a will, trust, or state law. Probate also involves lawfully recognizing the decedent’s heirs.

Winding up the estate includes paying just debts, resolving tax matters, and distributing the decedent’s estate to heirs and/or legatees. In Cook County, probate is typically 9 to 14 months but can be much longer depending on the complexities of the estate, e.g., family dynamics. Probate is included in our Family Benefit Protection Plan.

Is probate required?

Even with an estate of more than $100,000, probate is not necessarily required if a living trust has been created. A living trust allows you to determine the distribution of your property privately, to avoid probate, and to distribute your property and personal possessions more efficiently. Living trusts are discussed are discussed more fully in the Trust FAQs. See below for the steps Illinois requires for entering into probate.

What exactly is probate property?

Probate property is usually real estate, personal possessions, cash, bank accounts and other interests held by a sole person. This property must proceed either through the probate process through the laws of the State of Illinois unless the person has a trust.

What are the Illinois probate steps?

  1. File will and codicils with clerk of proper court within 30 days of decedent’s death
  2. If no will exists, petition court to nominate administrator
  3. Pay a bond on personal property
  4. Probate judge may allow for opening the estate
  5. Appoint executor or administrator
  6. Notify executor, heirs, legatees and other interested parties
  7. Court presents “Letters of Office” to executor
  8. Court-supervised inventory of probate assets
  9. File inventory of probate assets within 60 days of executor appointment
  10. Distribute specific dollar amount gifts after the creditor claim period ends – 6 months
  11. Pay creditors and taxes from estate assets
  12. Distribute residuary gifts
  13. Close estate

Please note that the above is not an all-inclusive list of the probate process; many smaller steps are also involved.