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When a loved one dies it is a very stressful time for all family members involved.  If the decedent completed their estate plan (including funding it) a lot of the work to transfer the assets upon death has been done.  Someone should only have to implement the plan that was created.  However, if you can’t find the decedent’s estate planning documents, or they were never drafted, depending on what the individual owned, a probate case may have to be opened.

The first step of the probate process is to get a probate case opened in probate court and have an executor of the estate named.  In order to open a probate case, one must complete and file a request to the court called a Petition for Probate.  This petition must be filed with the court clerk in the county where the testator resided at the time of their death. Once this step is accomplished then the ball can start rolling in the right direction.

First, the executor needs to create a complete inventory of the estate.  The executor may need to show the court a detailed description of all of the assets of the estate.  The next thing is to get multiple death certificates.  If you are named executor of an estate we recommend getting a minimum of ten death certificates.  Any account that you will need to close or transfer will require a death certificate.

Once all of the assets are accounted for and claims paid, the court will then approve the distribution of the assets according to the terms of the will.  If there was no will, then the person in charge of the distribution of the estate is known as an administrator.  Whatever family member volunteered for the position and was approved by the court is required to distribute all of the assets based on Illinois law.  This is called the law of descent and distribution.

If this sounds potentially confusing and overwhelming, it is, and should you need any help please contact us.  Just because you are the executor of an estate, doesn’t mean you have to bear the brunt of trying to tackle the process alone.  You are obligated to conduct this process according to Illinois law and must hire an attorney to guide you through the probate process.

Executor –  a person appointed by a testator to carry out the terms of their will
Administrator – a person who volunteers to distribute a probate estate
Testator – a person who has made a will or given a legacy
Decedent – a person who has died