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Do You Need to Reopen Probate?

Do You Need to Reopen Probate?

a small personal standing in a probate paper, estate planning attorney

Once a probate estate has been fully administered and the case has been closed, it typically stays closed, but in a handful of situations, it may make sense to reopen probate.

Reasons to Reopen Probate

Illinois has very broad probate laws that regulate when an estate may be reopened. Under the Illinois Probate Act, an estate can be reopened at any time if a portion of the estate was never settled, if new assets, creditors or wills were discovered, if an heir was not notified of the opening or closing of the estate, or if fraud occurred or assets were concealed.

Discovered Asset

A common scenario occurs when a previously unknown asset is found. For example:

  1. Bank accounts;
  2. Bonds;
  3. Retirement accounts; or
  4. Artwork.

Some assets, such as POD accounts, already designate a beneficiary and thus do not warrant reopening probate. Additionally, heirs should confirm that the asset is held in the name of the decedent (the person who passed away); the estate cannot take title to the asset unless it is in the name of the decedent.

New Debts

Similar to discovered assets, new debts also warrant reopening probate. Creditors who are owed funds from the decedent are entitled to seek compensation from the estate. However, before reopening probate, heirs should confirm the debt claim is valid and that collection of the debt is timely. Some debts are uncollectible because they are passed the statute of limitations.

Not All Assets Distributed

If the estate administrator closes the estate early, conceals assets, or distributes to the wrong heir, probate can be reopened. Complications arise because will often do not list every single asset (for example, they do not discuss personal items such as towels, kitchenware, etc.) If an heir wants to reopen probate, that person will need proof that the estate administrator committed wrongdoing or fraudulent acts.

Discovery of New Will

Finally, heirs can petition to reopen probate if a new will is discovered. Prior to reopening probate, the heir must prove that the will is valid, enforceable and written later than the will that is currently probated.

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