What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process in which a representative or executor is appointed to administer a decedent’s estate. It begins with a petition filed with the court clerk located in the county in which the decedent resided. Probate may involve identifying and organizing the decedent’s assets and property, paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing the remainder to people entitled to receive it. It is important to be aware that the execution of a valid will does not lead to or avoid the probate process.

People often seek to avoid probate because the process can become expensive, drawn-out, and time-consuming. The representative of the estate will need to hire an attorney to appear in probate court and notify potential creditors and unknown heirs by publication. If the estate is contested, or if there are objections by a party regarding any issue, it may be necessary for the court to rule on the matter. This may require appearing in court multiple times, engaging in discovery, filing briefs, and conducting oral arguments. Before distributing the estate’s assets, the attorney and the representative must resolve any claims or disputes, obtain signed receipts from the beneficiaries, and prepare a final accounting and report with the court. This process may also lead to months of waiting before the estate is distributed and closed.

Another important reason to avoid probate concerns the taxation of the estate. A probate estate is a separate taxpaying entity that is required to report any income, gains, and deductions that may accrue during the probate process. Due to the nuanced rules surrounding fiduciary taxation, the representative may need to hire a tax professional.

Finally, one of the major reasons that probate is disfavored by family members and loved ones is because the process creates a public record. This means that sensitive information, financial records, and the details of private matters may be available to anyone who requests the file. If a will is included in the probate file, it is also open to public review. For many people, this can be an unwelcome intrusion. Fortunately, a skilled estate planning attorney can identify and plan for ways to minimize the time and expense required to settle a person’s estate, or ideally avoid probate entirely. 



Cook County Filing Fee: $472.00, Publication Costs: $235.00, Estimated annual bond based on $400,000.00: $2,000.00, Attorney's fee: $3,500.00=

Total: $6,207.00