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DuPage County estate administration lawyersIf you have started creating your own estate plans or you have recently lost a loved one, you may have heard the term “probate.” This term is used to refer to the legal proceedings which transfers a deceased individual’s assets to heirs. If the deceased person, or decedent, has signed a will before he or she died, the probate courts determine whether or not the will is enforceable and oversee the distribution of the decedents’ assets. If a decedent does not have a will or the will is not enforceable, the probate process is much more involved. Because it can often be time-consuming and expensive, many people try to avoid probate through careful estate planning.

What Happens During Probate?

The probate process differs from estate to estate depending on several factors. If the decedent had a will, the judge will ensure that the will meets the criteria required by Illinois probate law. Wills must be written and signed by the deceased person. If evidence exists to suggest that the deceased person wrote their will under undue influence or that the will is fraudulent in some way, the will may be invalidated.

If the decedent had identified an executor in their estate plans, the judge will assign this person several responsibilities. The executor must distribute the decedent’s assets according to the will, notify the decedent’s creditors of the decedent’s death, pay the decedent’s final bills, and file income taxes on their behalf. Generally, the executor role falls to the decedent’s next of kin if there was no prior determination regarding this important responsibility.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyAs you begin the process of estate planning, you are likely to hear that probate is a time-consuming, expensive series of proceedings that should always be avoided. This idea is prevalent in online resources about estate plans, but there is often little explanation given as to why—other than it can take a long time and costs money. Before you decide whether avoiding probate is necessary, it is important to fully understand the process.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a judicial process by which an individual proves in court that a deceased person’s will is valid. This process also includes taking inventory of the recently deceased person’s property, appraising the property, and distributing the property according to the will. If there is no will or other estate planning instruments in place, property will be allocated by the probate court in accordance with the state’s laws of intestate succession.

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