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Four Things You Can Expect in Probate Court

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When disputes occur, you need professional and emotional support while going through the probate process.

Chicago, IL The biggest problem after a loved one passes on is how to fulfill their wishes about wealth distribution as outlined in the Will. The named heirs and other interested parties may disagree with the Will, pushing the matter to court. Establishing trusts is a good way of avoiding the probate courts, but disputes still arise, prompting litigation.

Illinois is known for its multi-dollar businesses and sprawling farming estates. People from Chicago, Rockford, and other nearby places own these properties and with time they have created trusts and wills to ensure a smooth handover after their demise. But when disputes occur, you need professional and emotional support while going through the probate process. That’s when an experienced Chicago trust attorney can handle the matter to ease your burden, especially in this mourning period.

Here is what to expect in a probate court.

1. Filing the Probate Petition

The initial step in the probate process is submitting a request to the courts to look into the dispute. This petition is usually filed in a superior court in the county where the decedent resided. The executor, the person assigned that responsibility in the Will, files the petition, although close relatives can do so in his absence.

To initiate the process, the executor submits a death certificate copy and other relevant supporting documentation to the courts. Other necessary documents include the Will, estate planning documents, the names of the beneficiaries, and other trust documents. The court will examine the documents for authenticity and, if valid, sets a hearing date.

2. The First Hearing

The court usually confirms the executor named in the Will during the first hearing. It may also appoint a new person from the immediate family if there is no will, the beneficiaries want to avoid the named executor, or the person declines to assume the position. This person will be responsible for carrying out the court’s or Will’s directives to ensure a fair allocation of the decedent's resources to the heirs.

If the executor is acceptable to all the interested parties, the court will issue a letter of administration, also known as a Letters Testamentary. A letter of administration is a legal document that grants the executor access to the estate or trust’s assets. The named executor can now administer the estate until the end of the probate process.

3. Assigning the Executor Official Responsibilities

In this step, the judge assigns the person duties and responsibilities. Some of the duties include notifying any interested parties of the probation proceedings. The person can send letters or post an advertisement in daily newspapers several times to alert possible creditors. Gathering and appraising the decedent's assets is also another key responsibility.

They should then create an inventory of the estate's monetary assets and present it to the courts. This ensures that the court and the interested parties have a figure to work with and that all involved are reading from the same script. Since an executor’s work is tedious and time-consuming, they may be allocated a monthly salary until their work as the estate's administrator is done.

At this point, the court will conclude the first hearing and set a date for the second hearing, usually ten months to a year after. This time can vary depending on the trust's complexity and estate size.

Between the first and the second hearing, the administrator will set to work implementing the Will or the orders issued by the court as outlined above. They will file taxes, liquidate some assets, and transfer estate title deeds to the rightful heirs.

4. The Second Hearing

The personal representative or the executor will file a petition of distribution notifying the court that they are done with the distribution of assets during the second hearing for court approval. They will give a detailed account of what they did for the judge to review.

The judge reviews the petition and detailed account to ensure everything was fairly distributed according to the will or court order, all creditors have been paid, and all taxes filed. Once satisfied, the judge will sign the petition and close the case.

Final Word

Going through the probate court can be overwhelming, especially during mourning. Expect to go through several court hearings, which will see a fair distribution of your loved one's property. Most importantly, ensure you have a reputed trust attorney to ease the process.

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