Probate is the formal legal process in which Wills are legally recognized. It also appoints the executor or administrator (where there is no Will) who will administer the estate and distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries. Illinois law requires that a probate estate be opened in most circumstances where the decedent owned real estate titled solely in his or her name, or left other assets titled solely in his or her or name valued in excess of $100,000. Most probate court proceedings are neither expensive nor prolonged.
Where the decedent’s estate was arranged with designated beneficiaries, such as payable on death accounts or trusts, or with joint tenants, and there are no solely owned assets without a designated beneficiary, then the estate does not require probate. Small Estate Affidavits can be used to distribute solely owned property of a decedent if in total the property is worth less than $100,000 and there are no outstanding debts or claims.