In Illinois litigation, one of the most important steps in the process is the discovery of information related to the estate. In particular, discovering information related to the assets of the estate is absolutely essential in order to properly administer the estate in probate court. However, sometimes individuals take property from the estate and hide all information regarding the property. So, how does an interested party of an estate obtain information related to an estate in probate court? Let’s look at how this is typically done.
A Citation to Discover Assets in Illinois Probate Court
A Citation to Discover Assets is a tool that is used in the Illinois Probate system to discover information regarding assets (property) in an estate. Usually, the Executor or Administrator of the estate will file a Citation action against a party whom he/she believes has taken property from the estate, or has information regarding the whereabouts of estate property. In order to obtain the issuance of a Citation against a party, the individual seeking information will likely file some kind of Petition to seek the issuance of the Citation. An example of a fictitious Petition is as follows:
PETITION FOR THE ISSUANCE OF CITATION TO DISCOVER ASSETS
Now comes Jane Doe (“Petitioner”), and respectfully petitions this Court to issue a Citation to Discover Assets against Respondent, John Doe (“Respondent”), and in support thereof states:
1. The Decedent died on January 1, 2000. On January 1, 2001, the Respondent was appointed as the Independent Executor of the purported Last Will and Testament of the Decedent.
2. The Petitioner believes that the Respondent has knowledge of or is in wrongful possession of property belonging to the Estate of the Decedent.
Legal Grounds for Petition to Discover Assets
3. Article XVI of the Probate Act, 755 ILCS 5/16-1 et. seq., authorizes this Court to order a Citation for the appearance before it of any person believed:
a) to have concealed…or to have in his possession or control any personal property, books of account, papers or evidence of debt or title to lands which belonged to a person whose estate is being administered in that court or which belongs to his estate or to his representative; or
b) to have information or knowledge withheld by the respondent from the representative and needed by the representative for the recovery of any property by suit or otherwise.
4. This section of the Probate Act provides for examining the respondents under oath and for the production of documents regarding assets and their value. The Court is empowered to enter such orders as the case may require. Estate of Shanahan v. Bowen, 59 Ill. App. 3d 269, 375 N.E.2d 508, 512 (1978).
Facts Supporting Petition to Discover Assets
5. The Petitioner believes that the Respondent is aware of the location or disposition of $20,000 in the Decedent’s bank account, $5,000 pension, and life insurance proceeds. The Petitioner also believes that the Respondent is aware of the location or disposition of the Decedent’s automobile and furniture.
6. In order for the proper administration of the estate, all interested parties must be made aware of all assets that were owned by the Decedent at the time of her death. The Petitioner believes that the Respondent was actively involved in the Decedent’s affairs. The Respondent would therefore be expected to possess knowledge of the Decedent’s property.
7. For several years, the Respondent has had control of the Decedent’s residence, all bank accounts, and all other personal property of the Decedent. On information and belief, the Decedent’s automobile was titled in her name alone, and she possessed a significant amount of furniture in her house.
8. In conversations between the Petitioner and the Respondent prior to the Decedent’s death, the Respondent admitted using the Decedent’s funds to pay bills on his house. He also admitted to cashing in the Decedent’s bank account. The Respondent further stated that the Decedent’s house was empty except for his personal property, with no mention of the Decedent’s automobile or furniture, and that he was not concerned about having to do an accounting since he felt that he had nothing to hide.
9. In a telephone conversation between the Petitioner and the Respondent, the Respondent told the Petitioner that he had spent “all of her [Decedent’s] money” that was left.
10. Attached to this Petition and marked Exhibit A is a partial list of personal items that the Petitioner believes were owned by the Decedent prior to and at the time of her death. The Respondent may be in possession of such items or likely has knowledge of the disposition thereof.
WHEREFORE, the Petitioner, Jane Doe, prays that this Court enter an Order:
Once the Citation is issued by the Probate Court, the party seeking information can summon the respondent (the party from whom information is sought) to Court or to an attorney’s office for a proceeding to determine what information the respondent might have. A respondent’s failure to appear at a Citation proceeding could result in the respondent being held in contempt by the Court.
If you have an Illinois estate litigation matter, contact us today to see how we can help you resolve the estate. In our practice, we represent Executors named in a Will (as well as Administrators who have already been appointed by a local Probate Court) to settle litigation related to an estate. If you are an Executor (or a court-appointed Administrator) with a contested matter, give us a call at (630) 898-4789 to set up a free initial consultation.
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