When a loved one passes away, it is important for survivors to understand how the estate will be handled. In many situations, the assets will have to go through probate. People in Illinois and throughout the country may have to go through the process in order to validate the decedent’s will, pay debts or taxes and distribute the property.

As an estate planning attorney in Illinois would recommend, people facing probate should have a firm understanding of the differences between independent and supervised administration. Each route determines  how much power the personal representative has.

Distinct differences

The Illinois Probate Act of 1975 outlines two ways that cases in probate court may be handled. The first is independent administration, through which the executor of a will has full authority over all the estate assets. In most wills, there is a clause that allows the executor to independently administer an estate. In those circumstances, the executor will not need to get court approval to do just about any task, including the following actions:

  • Sell property
  • Exchange real property
  • Settle debts

Alternatively, there may be circumstances in which a case is conducted under supervised administration. Typically, this occurs when someone passes away without a will and the estate is processed under the supervision of a court-appointed administrator. During these matters, a judge must approve most actions an executor wishes to take. However, there are minor decisions that an administrator may make without court approval, such as paying utility bills.

Outside circumstances in which there is a will, an estate planning attorney in Illinois would know that limited supervision is typically only advisable when heirs are disagreeing over inheritance or a more complex legal matter, such as a lawsuit, is at stake.

Important considerations

In Illinois, estates that are valued at less than $100,000 and lack real estate do not need to go through probate. Instead, survivors may file an affidavit to claim inheritance. Additionally, for estates in which assets are jointly owned, people may be able to avoid the process.

There are some assets that avoid probate, such as property that is held in a trust or real estate that is subject to a transfer-on-death deed. Additionally, retirement accounts, life insurance policies and other assets that are subject to a beneficiary designation will not be subject to the process.

Though many cases can be settled in a year or less, there are some circumstances that can drag out the process. For example, if the will is deemed to be invalid or there are accusations that the executor has committed a wrongdoing, the case may take longer to unfold.

Probate proceedings can run smoothly when the parties involved have an understanding of what is involved. Anyone with questions regarding this matter should consult with an estate planning attorney in Illinois.