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Probate litigation: Some things you should know

When an Illinois estate owner dies, it typically activates a court process. Depending on whether the person died intestate or testate determines how the process unfolds. There are often ways to avoid probate litigation, but in certain circumstances it is necessary.

If a particular estate owner dies testate, this means he or she signed a last will and testament while still of sound mind. In this case, property and other assets are simply transferred, under the court’s supervision, to heirs or beneficiaries designated to receive them in accordance with instructions in the will. Dying intestate means there is no existing last will and testament, in which case the court will determine what happens to the decedent’s assets based upon the state’s laws of intestacy.

When a last will and testament is in place, it is common for there to be a designated executor. This is the person who oversees the administration of the estate. Not every estate owner names an executor, so, if needed, the court will appoint one.

Size of an estate, tax information, number of heirs and other issues affect how long the probate process takes. It is common for probate to take up to two years after an estate owner dies. Family disputes can prompt contentious situations, especially if a potential heir or beneficiary believes his or her rights have been undermined. Anyone in Illinois who wishes to clarification of probate litigation laws or is currently facing a legal problem regarding a particular estate can request a meeting with an experienced estate planning and administration law attorney for support.