Opening an estate in Wheaton probate is the first step toward administering an estate. While every person leaves an estate when they pass away, not every estate must go through the probate process. Therefore, before opening an estate, the executor or personal administrator should determine whether the estate must undergo formal probate proceedings.

When probate is required, many people find it helpful to work with an experienced probate lawyer. A Wheaton trusts and estates lawyer could assist with opening an estate and complying with legal requirements throughout the administration process.

Determining How the Estate Should be Administered

State law provides for administration of a “small” estate through an affidavit process rather than formal probate. An estate may be considered small even if the deceased individual owned a great deal of property because many assets may not be treated as part of the estate.

Property that is usually not part of an estate in Wheaton includes:

  • Assets owned jointly with another, such as real estate owned in tenancy by the entirety or joint tenancy
  • Property held in trust, including living revocable trusts
  • Assets with a beneficiary designation such as retirement accounts
  • Real estate or other property subject to a transfer on death deed or clause

If the deceased person transferred most assets to a trust or had the majority of their assets in accounts with a designated beneficiary, then the remaining property that forms their estate could be under the limit for probate. 755 Ill. Comp. Stat. §5/25-1 describes the affidavit that may be used to transfer property when the value of an estate does not exceed $100,000.

Formal Probate Process

If a Wheaton estate requires formal probate, the Circuit Court of DuPage County oversees the process. Overall, probate involves collecting assets, ensuring that creditors are notified of the death, paying bills including final expenses, and then distributing the remaining assets to the legal heirs or legatees named in the will. The presence or absence of a will has no bearing on the issue of whether an estate needs to go through probate, but it does affect the probate process.

If there is a will, part of opening an estate in Wheaton probate includes filing the will with the clerk of the DuPage County Circuit Court. When there is no will, property passes according to the laws of intestate succession. Although the will may designate an individual to serve as personal representative or executor, that person needs to formally request appointment from the court before continuing with other tasks.

Documents Filed with the Court to Open an Estate

Opening an estate in Wheaton probate involves filing several documents with the court. The personal representative needs to file a Petition for Letters of Office to be granted authority to administer the estate. There are different types of petitions to be filed depending on the circumstances. Notice of the petition may need to be served on certain people to allow them opportunity to object to the proposed appointment.

In addition to the Petition for Letters of Office, the representative must file an oath of office and sometimes must also submit a surety bond to provide protection in case of misconduct. Additionally, the representative would file an Affidavit of Heirship identifying the family members of the deceased person who would traditionally be entitled to inherit. In many cases, at the same time, the representative files a draft Order Declaring Heirship which the judge may sign if the court finds the Affidavit in order.

Assistance with Opening an Estate in Wheaton Probate

When the court approves a representative’s request for letters of office, the judge designates the administration as either independent or supervised. When opening an estate in Wheaton leads to a supervised administration, care must be taken to ensure that the court approves the requisite steps in the probate process.

An experienced probate attorney could provide guidance or manage most of the process of opening an estate in Wheaton probate. In addition to court filings, it is usually necessary to request a tax ID number and open a bank account in the name of the estate.