Useful information to help guide
your probate process

How Long Might Probate Take In Chicago?

There are all sorts of parties who may be interested in discovering how long the probate process can take in the Chicago area. Executors, for instance, may be keen to figure out how much time they’ll have to successfully settle the estate’s financial and personal matters. Beneficiaries and heirs may wonder how long they’ll have to wait before receiving access to their legacies. And even the decedent may have factored in the length of the probate process as he or she prepared an estate plan once upon a time.

So, then, “how long does probate take in Illinois” is a common question – with a fairly tricky answer.

Simply defined, probate is the legal process by which the assets of a deceased person are properly distributed, in line with the decedent’s wishes and in accordance with all state, local, and federal laws.

While there are always certain required steps to the probate process, and the same laws dictate all people and estates in Illinois, the reality is that the finer details of the probate process can and will vary from person to person, based on a wide variety of factors.

One rule of thumb? All estates subject to probate in Illinois are required to be open for at least six months; this is the amount of time that creditors have available to assert their claims from the time they are properly notified.

Beyond that, the probate process will be guided and affected by a number of forces, including family relationships, the quality of the decedent’s estate planning, and the size and complexity of the estate itself. Here are a few questions to ask that may help determine how lengthy the probate process may be for your specific circumstances:

Was the Deceased Person Organized and Thorough About Estate Planning?

If the deceased person was particularly well-organized and thoughtful about their estate prior to their death, then that could simplify the process for their friends and family members down the line.

On the other hand, a messy estate – one with missing documents, an unclear paper trail, poor wording on important paperwork, or a failure to account for certain assets or outcomes – can be complicated, and tough to administer properly. If an executor or some other representative needs to hunt down elements of the decedent’s estate plan, the probate process could quickly become complicated and drawn out.

How Large Is the Estate? Are the Assets In the Estate Particularly Complex?

Prior to passing away, many people take steps to help certain assets avoid probate, including:

  • Putting their assets in a trust
  • Taking ownership of certain property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship
  • Naming “transfer-on-death” or “payable-on-death” beneficiaries to certain financial accounts or securities

If the decedent has failed to account for matters such as these, the probate process could be longer than normal. Similarly, if there are complex circumstances surrounding assets in the estate – such as questions of ownership, unclear directives regarding disposition, or legal matters left unresolved at the time of an individual’s death – the probate process could be stretched out.

If the deceased person also has a particularly large estate, or the estate has many heirs and legatees designated, this can also prolong the probate process, as the executor may need to spend more time dealing with serving notices and juggling communications with various parties, calculating distributions, and responding to conflicting interests.

Another question worth asking: Will there be many claims against the estate? Claims can stem from any number of sources, and particularly tend to come up in relation to unpaid bills and outstanding debts. Claims can quickly become complex, and if there are many creditors looking to take their piece of the pie, the probate process could become even more time-consuming.

Will There Be Fighting or Disputes Between Family Members?

The probate process could drag on for additional months – or even years, in some cases – if heirs and legatees squabble over the estate. In particular, if any interested parties file a valid dispute, this could make the probate process significantly costlier, and greatly extend the amount of time it might take to close the estate.

The more a family argues – particularly when those disagreements spill into the courts – the longer and more difficult the probate process can be. Litigation can drag on for many years, and require numerous court appearances, hours spent working with an attorney, and even extensive evidence gathering. Not only will this add time to the probate proceedings, but it could significantly eat into the estate’s finances.

The bottom line? Probate is a fraught process under the best of circumstances, and many estate representatives ultimately decide that they would benefit from bringing on professional assistance.

Have any further questions about the probate process in the Chicago area? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team to keep the conversation going!

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