Probate – Experienced Probate Attorneys in Rockford, IL

In the minds of many people, the term “probate” is a source of dread and even horror. A lot of individuals associate probate with things like delay, expense, and long-drawn-out legal disputes. In reality, these fears are largely unjustified, for reduced to its essentials probate is a court-supervised way of handling the property of a deceased individual.

During the probate process the presiding judge of the court will appoint someone to be in charge of the financial affairs of the deceased person, including their property, assets, debts, and back taxes, if any. Once outstanding debts are settled, remaining property is distributed to the heirs of the deceased.

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Probate in Illinois

All that said, what follows is a more detailed explanation of the probate process in Illinois.

In Illinois, probate is handled by the executor, named in the will of the deceased, or if the deceased named no executor, by the court. The executor will then:

  • Prove the will is valid, usually a perfunctory, routine matter.
  • Identify and inventory the assets of the deceased.
  • Arrange an appraisal of the assets.
  • Pay any outstanding debts or taxes.
  • Distribute the remaining property as designated in the will, or as state law directs when there is no will.

In addition, it should be noted that in Illinois probate is necessary if:

  • The deceased own assets individually rather than jointly.
  • All probate assets combined are worth more than $100,000.

Exceptions to Probate in Illinois

On the other hand, some assets DO NOT have to go through probate, and these include:

  • Assets that are held in trust, as, for example, in a living revocable trust, designed to avoid probate.
  • Assets owned in joint tenancy or, in the case of married couples, tenancy by the entirety.
  • Assets subject to a beneficiary designation, such as retirement accounts, life insurance, or a payable-on-death bank account.
  • Real estate that is subject to an Illinois transfer-on-death deed.

Small Estates

If the assets of the deceased are less than $100,000 and they owned no property, probate is not required in Illinois. Instead, those inheriting assets present a signed affidavit, along with a copy of the will, if there is one, to claim their inheritance. The affidavit is signed “under penalty of perjury.” That means you may be prosecuted for perjury for lying on the affidavit.


Most probate procedures are routine and settled within a year or less. In cases where there are disputes and a court battle, these usually involve:

  • Claims that someone had undue influence over the deceased, or the deceased did not have the mental capacity to make a valid will.
  • Questions about the signing and witnessing of the will.
  • Confusing language found in the will.
  • The claims of creditors.
  • Accusations of some sort of wrongdoing by the executor.
  • In cases where there is no will, identifying the rightful heirs.

Rockford Probate Lawyers

While probate is usually a routine matter, difficulties can develop if the matter of inheritance is not handled properly by experienced estate law, estate administration, and probate attorneys. At Crosby & Crosby one of our specialties is managing all matters related to probate, from the drafting of a will, through the court-supervised probate, and when necessary, the resolution of disputed cases involving significant amounts of money. We will be with you and your heirs throughout the entire process, achieving results with integrity.

If you need skilled and compassionate estate planning and probate attorneys, Crosby & Crosby is the law firm to contact in Rockford, Illinois and surrounding communities. We will guide you and your designated heirs through the entire process, to make sure your wishes are fulfilled and the interests of those who are most dear to you are protected.

At Crosby & Crosby, You’re Never Alone

We want you to know that first and foremost, we’re here to help you succeed and protect what you value most.

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Questions? We Can Help!

Helpful questions about family law

How to choose the right divorce lawyer?

Choosing the right divorce lawyer, in our mind, comes down to three factors. First, is this lawyer going to be an aggressive advocate for me? Second, is this lawyer a person I can get along with personally? Third, do I trust this lawyer to communicate with me effectively? If you walk away from an initial consultation with a lawyer answering yes to those three questions, you have likely found the lawyer who is right for you.

Legal work can be extremely time consuming. Your expectations should not necessarily be that your lawyer is someone you can vent to about your personal life, as that would likely result in an unreasonably high bill. But you should expect your lawyer to keep you informed as to the status of your case. You should also expect your lawyer to listen to your wishes and concerns and use those thoughts as a basis for your case. You don’t need to talk to your lawyer everyday, but you should hear from them every other week or so.

Expect the unexpected when it comes to the Court dates. The Court system is based on a first-come-first-serve calendar, when the case is not filed as an emergency. All initial Court dates are determined by the Clerk of the Court, not of the lawyer or client. If you have a lawyer, expect the Judges to want your lawyer to do the talking, unless the Judge asks the client a question directly. You should also expect the Judge to keep the Courtroom as orderly as possible. Judges very much look down on people who speak out of turn. As for dress, the Court does not require a strict dress code, but it is always a good idea to dress professionally to show the Judge that you take the system and their Courtroom seriously.

There is a process in the law referred to as “discovery” that allows a party to a legal proceeding to discover information about the opposing party. In the context of a divorce, “discovery” is primarily used in the form of written questions and written requests for the opposing party to provide documents to the party that is doing the requesting. These are called “interrogatories” and “requests to produce.” During the process, the party answering the questions or requests must provide a written testimony, under oath, that the documents and answers are true and accurate. It is through this process of “discovery” that we are able to learn what assets a party possesses.

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