When someone passes away (the decedent), it is a very emotional time. It is also a time when it becomes necessary to divide up the assets he or she had and pay his or her debts. How this happens depends on the value of the assets and what estate planning documents are in place.
Assets which are held jointly with another person do not require court intervention to divide. Upon death, the jointly named person receives the property.
Assets which have a named beneficiary do not require court intervention to divide. Examples are 401(k)s and life insurance policies. Upon death, the named beneficiary receives the property.
In the event that the decedent’s assets are valued at $100,000.00 or less, a document entitled Small Estates Affidavit can be used to divide the assets as long as the decedent did not have any real estate or debts, there are no unknown heirs, or heirs that are minors and all assets are known. You will need a death certificate, a certified copy of the will (if there is one) and a list of the heirs and a list of assets. The death certificate and certified copy of the will must be attached to the completed small estates affidavit. These documents are then presented to whoever is holding the decedent’s property (for example a bank). That person or business must then distribute the assets according to the terms of the small estates affidavit.
In the event the decedent’s assets are valued over $100,000.00, the decedent owns real estate or has significant debt, probate (court action) will be used to distribute the assets and pay debts. In Illinois probate law provides for publication in a newspaper so that creditors can file their claims within 6 months of the publication or the debts will be barred from being collected. If there is no probate, and no publication for claims, the creditors of the decedent have two years after the death of the decedent to collect their money from the assets of the decedent, even if his or her heirs now have the money or assets of the decedent.
If you have been named executor in a will and don’t know what to do or if you have recently experienced the death of a parent, spouse, child or other loved one and need help figuring out what to do about their estate, the law firm of Michling Plaza & Associates, P.C. can help you through this process with compassion, understanding and skillfulness.
For help with Settling Estates (inc. Probate), please contact: