When an Illinois resident dies, his or her estate will often need to go through the process of probate. In Illinois, probate is required to validate and administer the decedent’s will, or to determine that the decedent did not have a valid will in place. Depending on the circumstances, probate can be a long and daunting process, and it may be a source of stress when there are arguments about the estate, but understanding the process can go a long way in helping you through it.
The Role of the Executor or Estate Administrator
During the probate process, an estate executor or administrator manages the assets and debts of the deceased. If there is a valid will, it will usually name the person who will serve as executor. In the absence of a will, the court will appoint an administrator, which will often be the closest surviving family member. Named executors can decline their duties if they are unwilling or unable to fulfill them.
Handling Creditors During Probate
During probate, the decedent’s heirs are not the only people who may be entitled to assets from the estate. Creditors may also come forward to pursue unpaid debts. By law, they must do so within the fixed time period allotted to them. In addition, the IRS must be paid any and all income taxes due. This cannot be avoided by selling assets—in fact, selling assets may be necessary to generate the necessary funds to pay the outstanding debts and taxes. Only then can the remaining assets be distributed to heirs. A final income tax return must also be filed for any assets that earn income during the probate period.
Inclusion and Exclusion of Assets
While many assets will go through probate, not all are required to do so. Assets that must go through probate generally include:
Assets held only in the name of the deceased
Jewelry, furniture, art, and any other assets that are not registered or included in the will
Any portion of assets held as common property with other parties.
Assets that are typically excluded from probate include:
Assets held in a trust
Assets with specified beneficiaries, such as IRA benefits and life insurance policies
Bank account or credit union assets for which the deceased was a trustee for another party
Assets held in joint tenancy
Any assets registered in the name of the deceased as “transfer on death” or “payable on death” to another party.
Contact a DuPage County Probate Lawyer
Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult enough without the added stress of family squabbles, contests of a will, and the need to notify all beneficiaries and creditors. This is where an experienced Lombard probate attorney can help. Call 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation about the probate process with A. Traub & Associates today.