Hoffman Estates Probate Lawyers

Hoffman Estates Probate Lawyers

Even distribution of small estates using a small estate affidavit can involve probate rules that are hard to locate, let alone understand, and small estate affidavits can still be subject to very similar rules as standard probate cases. For this reason, you will want to contact a Hoffman Estates probate lawyer for assistance with any kind of probate case.

Spagnolo & Hoeksema, LLC, handles all kinds of probate cases, large and small, in Hoffman Estates and surrounding areas of Illinois. Our firm will be able to guide you through the entire process and do what is best to minimize any potential conflicts.

Illinois Probate Process

The estate of a deceased person in Illinois typically goes into probate when the estate is worth $100,000 or more, and the assets of the estate were owned solely by the deceased. If the total value of the deceased person’s estate is less than $100,000 and does not contain any real estate, a formal probate proceeding may not be necessary. 

People with a claim on assets can instead use a simple small estate affidavit or sworn statement to claim their inheritance. If there is a will, it is the named executor who files the will with the local court. 

When it is necessary to open a probate case, many other additional documents will also have to be filed. Any person who has possession of a deceased person’s will has to file it with the Circuit Court in the county in which the deceased person was living in the 30 days prior to their death. 

Failure to file a will can result in a fine. Worse yet, it is a felony to willfully hide the will of a decedent.

When there is no will, then a person connected to the deceased must petition the court to appoint somebody as “administrator” of the estate. When no person connected to the decedent’s family steps forward, the Public Administrator of the county where the person died administers the estate.

The State of Illinois will give creditors six months to file any claims against the estate of a decedent. This means that an estate in Illinois will be in probate for a minimum of six months. 

When an estate does not go into probate, state law allows creditors to file claims for up to two years. A court that certifies a decedent’s last will and testament as authentic can authorize the distribution of all remaining assets as outlined in the will once all taxes and debts are satisfied. 

A probate process without any complications may finish in about one year. Even in the best-case scenarios, when estates must go into probate, there are certain steps that have to be taken to satisfy the law. 

Probate can be a straightforward process, but it will still take about 12 to 18 months or longer to complete. If there are no conflicts between the deceased’s heirs, then the estate’s representative can usually complete all payments of the deceased’s debts and distribution of the assets to their heirs without much court oversight. 

When there are conflicts to work through, however, a court will have to supervise the process and require the representative to receive court approval before taking any actions or distributing any funds. Once the process is complete, the representative will file a final account of the assets and how they were handled with the court. 

After accounting for the distribution of the final assets, the court will close the estate. 

Collecting Probate Documents

When a person is named the executor of a will or plans to petition to become administrator of an estate, certain steps will be necessary. The first step is always to determine whether a decedent left a will and then obtain a copy of that will if it exists.

You will then have to compile a list of all potential heirs, usually including a decedent’s parents, spouse, children, grandchildren, and siblings. Obtain their full names, addresses, and additional contact information for every person.

You will then determine what assets the deceased owned at the time of their death. Checking a decedent’s income tax returns from past years is often the best way to determine what assets they owned. 

Assets can include:

  • Homes or other real property
  • Individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or 401(k) account(s)
  • Bank and investment accounts
  • Insurance policies
  • Closely held businesses

You may also need to locate legal documents such as:

  • Beneficiary statements
  • Deeds
  • Business agreements
  • Title insurance policies

You must then compile a list of the deceased’s debts. The best way to identify a deceased person’s creditors is often by collecting their mail over the past 30 days. 

Debts can include:

  • Credit cards
  • Mortgage(s)
  • Utility bills
  • Lines of credit
  • Any other outstanding bills or invoices

All of this information will be necessary to settle any estate. An executor has to notify known creditors that the estate is going into probate and then publish a public notice of the probate case, so any other creditors have the ability to see it.

An executor is also responsible for paying any valid claims, such as funeral expenses or legal fees, from the estate assets. Before an estate can be closed, an executor has to file a full accounting of the estate’s assets, payments, and any income generated by the estate, as well as a distribution plan for any remaining assets.

Certain Assets That May Not Be Part of a Will in Probate

Some assets belonging to a decedent may not need to go through probate. These may include:

  • Assets held in trust. A revocable living trust often has the purpose of specifically avoiding probate.
  • Jointly-held assets (meaning by multiple parties) or assets held in tenancy by the entirety (jointly owned through marriage). In these cases, the ownership will pass to the survivor.
  • Assets subject to a beneficiary designation, such as a retirement account that names a specific beneficiary or payable-on-death bank accounts.
  • Any real estate subject to an Illinois transfer-on-death deed.

Common Probate Issues

It is not out of the question that a person could simply deal with all probate proceedings on their own. When a will is straightforward, and there seemingly will be no disputes, then a person could do this adequately without any issue.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that probate disputes commonly arise in many families, especially when:

  • There is no will
  • It is unknown whether the deceased left a valid will
  • People are contesting the will 
  • There is any kind of acrimony between family members
  • A child or spouse is not in the will
  • An heir who lost touch with the family now shows up to claim an inheritance

When there is a significant amount of money or valuable property on the line in a deceased person’s estate, all bets will be off. This is especially true when any party questions the intentions of the deceased.

Spagnolo & Hoeksema, LLC, can handle a variety of cases related to probate, estate, and trust litigation, including cases that involve:

  • Will Contests
  • Trust Contests
  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty
  • Lack of Mental Capacity
  • Theft, Improper Withdrawals, and Mismanagement
  • Citations to Recover and Discover Assets
  • Trust Construction, Interpretation, and Reformation
  • Decedent’s Estate Litigation
  • Will Construction, Interpretation, and Reformation
  • Total Return Trusts
  • Removal of Executors, Trustees, and Agents under Power of Attorney

Even with extensive estate planning, the death of a loved one can still lead to many legal challenges to a will, trust, or arrangement for guardianship. If you are contesting a will or just fighting to preserve it as it stands, your litigation result can have significant ramifications for both you and your family. 

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Hoffman Estates Probate Lawyer

If you are contesting a will, trust, or guardianship arrangement, or you find yourself defending such contests, you will want the assistance of an experienced attorney to represent your best interests. Spagnolo & Hoeksema, LLC, understands these types of cases and knows how to fight to achieve the most favorable results.

Our firm is ready to be your advocate in a court of law and make sure that you can honor the desires of the deceased. You can call us or contact us online to schedule a free consultation that will let us review your case and discuss all of your options with you at greater length.

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