In an Illinois Probate estate, there are issues that are similar in all estates, and there are issues which are unique. How long a given Probate case will take to complete is dependent on various factors. Let's see what some of these factors are.
How many beneficiaries of the estate are there?
One factor that can change the complexity of an Illinois estate administration is how many beneficiaries of the estate there are, and whether or not they get along. If an estate has multiple heirs and legatees, particularly with conflicting interests, an estate can be extended by several months to several years. Also, more beneficiaries will typically cause the estate representative to necessarily spend more time in handling the required notices of an estate, with calculating precise distributions, and with general communication between the representative and the individual heirs/legatees.
Complications with Heirship
When a Probate estate is opened in Illinois, the representative of the estate must file a court-document called an Affidavit of Heirship. This Affidavit of Heirship gives a detailed description of the family tree related to the deceased person. While most estates have fairly routine heirship descriptions, some estates have complicated Affidavits of Heirship due to a lack of information about the family heirship or a lack of close surviving relatives to the deceased person. This then requires the estate representative to spend a great deal more time on researching the heirship issues in the estate to present an accurate heirship description to the Probate court.
Will there be claims against the estate?
Oftentimes, an estate can be slowed down by a number of claims against the estate from sources such as unpaid medical bills to disgruntled heirs who believe they deserve a special portion of the estate for work they claimed to have done for the benefit of the deceased person. Because claims against an estate can become complex, there is an entire section of the Illinois Probate Act devoted specifically to issues related to claims (755 ILCS 5/18).
How complex are the assets in the estate?
If the deceased person died with more complex asset holdings, an estate will necessarily take longer to administer in the Probate process. Many times, individuals have died with unsettled real estate in another state or country (which could require an ancillary probate estate proceeding in that other state or country), life insurance policies and other financial accounts without proper beneficiary designations, or valuable personal property with no specific direction given regarding its disposition. Because of this, how much a deceased person prepared in advance for his/her passing will play a role in how complicated the estate will be to fully administer.
How organized was the deceased person with his/her affairs?
In some cases, a deceased person will leave his/her representative with very little to do because he/she was very organized with his/her affairs (and particularly, the related estate paperwork) prior to death. However, many people leave behind messy estates and no clear paper trail. It then becomes the job of the representative of the estate to unravel the mysteries of the estate by hunting around for the proper paperwork, and by making the necessary phone calls to take care of the estate. Unfortunately, there are even times when a deceased person has prepared a will but has failed to keep it in a safe place, and the estate has been administered as if no will existed. Thus, an organized estate will take less time to administer, and a messy estate will likely take longer.
Are there contested issues related to the estate?
If interested parties to an estate cannot get along throughout the Probate proceedings, an estate can be delayed considerably. In fact, contested issues in an estate can be the primary reason an estate may take several years to resolve. Even if the issues in contention are petty or unreasonable, the Probate court will still have to take the necessary time to sort out all of the issues, and give each interested party his/her chance to state his/her position in the matter.
What is the range for how long a Probate will take in Illinois?
Now that we have looked at various factors that could potentially slow down an estate, let's take a look at what the range could be for the average Illinois Probate case.
In Illinois, a Probate case will generally last at least six months due to the necessity of the claims publication requirement under the Illinois Probate Act. Thus, a typical Illinois Probate will run between six and twelve months. However, if any of the factors listed above come into play, an Estate could be open in Court for much longer.
Also, even though most probate cases will last between six and twelve months, the representative of an estate will be able to gain access to estate funds immediately upon opening the estate and the issuance of the Letters of Office (the official court document confirming the appointment). If there are no large anticipated debts or claims against the estate, the representative has the power to distribute some (or all, as the case may be) of the estate assets to the beneficiaries at any time during the estate administration.
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Our firm has helped many Executors and Administrators with routine and complicated Probate estates across the Chicagoland area. If you have questions regarding a Probate estate, complete the form below to set up a free initial consultation today!
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