Twelve months is how long probate generally takes in Illinois for a formal probate that is straightforward, not complex, and with no fighting.
If the Illinois estate has large and complex assets, or litigation, the probate can take years.
Why Does Probate Take So Long In Illinois?
The main reason that probate takes so long in Illinois because of the creditor claim period under Illinois law. Under Illinois law, creditors must file any claims against the probate estate within six months of publication. See Deadlines and Timelines In Illinois Probate.
The filing of tax returns, and resolution of any disputes, can stretch the length it takes to probate an estate out even longer. See our article: Why Does Probate Take So Long? for an in-depth discussion of why probate can take such a long time no matter what state the estate is in.
Small Estates: A Matter of Weeks
If the Illinois estate of a decedent does not have to go through the formal probate process, the process will not take long. An interested person can submit a Small Estate Affidavit, which is permitted if the assets of the Illinois estate are $100,000 or less in value, and if there is no real property.
A small estate affidavit is a way of getting a decedent’s property transferred without having to go through court or the formal probate process.
Straightforward Probate In Illinois: About 12 Months
As set forth above, an Illinois probate estate will be open for at least six months to honor the requisite creditor claim period under Illinois law. Add in time to open the estate, marshal the assets, wait out the creditor period, and distribute assets, and the typical Illinois probate estate will take about 12 months.
Any issues that arise will slow down the process. For example, perhaps the estate representative has trouble locating one of the beneficiaries or heirs. Everyone will have to wait until the person is located or their rights are otherwise addressed until the estate can be distributed and closed.
Large, Complex, or Litigated Illinois Probates: Several Years
If the decedent was very wealthy, owned a business, or had significant debt, the Illinois probate process can take a long time. Untangling a decedent’s individual and business financial life is not a simple task. The representative of the estate needs to first determine and marshal the decedent’s assets, value the decedent’s assets, determine all of the creditors, and wait the requisite time period. The more assets and holdings that a decedent has, the longer the probate process will take.
If the decedent owned real property, the estate representative will also usually have to appraise the property before distributing to the beneficiaries or selling the property. Selling real property can add several months to the probate.
Another factor that impacts how long an Illinois probate can take is litigation. This includes litigation between the beneficiaries of the estate (when someone brings a will contest), litigation on behalf of the estate, and litigation against the representative of the estate. Litigation in an estate will easily add months, and usually years to the length of the probate. Litigation is expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining.
What Happens If the Estate Representative Is Not Diligent?
The representative of the estate (the personal representative or the administrator) can have a big impact on how long probate takes in Illinois. Not everyone who serves as an estate representative is fast, diligent, or possesses the requisite skills to make the process smooth and painless.
An Illinois probate lawyer will help the probate process move forward, but will still depend on the responsiveness and diligence of the estate representative to marshal the estate and keep the process moving forward.