Probate Estates – Decedents

At Chamberlin Little P.C., we help Executors, Administrators and family members navigate the challenges of probating a loved one’s estate as efficiently as possible. Probate can be complex and potentially expensive process. In Illinois, a Probate Estate is required when a decedent:

• Has a Will (but no revocable trust); or
• Does NOT have a Will;


• Owns personal property in excess of $100,000; and/or
• Owns ANY real estate.

The type of probate estate required depends upon whether the individual has or does not have a will.

When an individual dies without a will, an “Intestate” estate is opened. Illinois law prescribes who then are the individual’s heirs, the priority that certain family members have as to who can act as “administrator” of the estate, and how the estate is to be divided among different classes of heirs. Illinois law also prescribes a priority as to which family members can act as guardian for minor children. A bond will be required of the administrator. The administrator can only act (and access a decedent’s accounts) once Letters of Office (or Letters of Administration) are received from the court.

When somebody dies with a properly executed and witnessed will, a “Testate” estate is opened. In this case, we must provide notice to the statutory heirs of the probate estate hearing and the will being filed, but the will, not Illinois law, controls who inherits from the decedent. Those people named in the will are called “legatees” and they may or may not also be the statutory heirs. The will nominates an “executor” to administer the estate, as well as guardians for any minor children. Most wills contain a provision that waives the bond requirement, which, depending on the size of the estate, can save the estate a couple hundred to several thousand dollars.

Depending on how fast the family contacts an attorney, how cooperative the family is and the court’s calendar, a probate estate can be opened in three to six weeks after somebody dies. Once the estate is opened, there is a statutory six-month period in which creditors may file claims. After the claims period expires, if all administration matters have been concluded the estate can be closed. If, however, the administration period is taking a very long time, each county requires that the executor/administrator return to court on a specific date approximately 14 months after the estate was opened to explain the delay in settling the estate and provide periodic status updates thereafter.

Probate has a bad reputation for being expensive and unproductive. We at Chamberlin Little P.C. assert that it doesn’t have to be that way. On the contrary, probate provides structure and a forum to facilitate speedy conclusion, if done correctly. We will help your family navigate the probate process as well as provide tools and encouragement to settle any probate estate as quickly, efficiently and fairly as possible. It’s very simple: The fewer times the lawyer has to go to court, the lower the cost to the estate.