How Long Does it Take to Settle an Estate?

How Long Does it Take to Settle an Estate?

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It takes time for the estates of decedents in Illinois to pass through the probate process. From submitting the will for probate to paying off any outstanding debts and distributing the assets to the specified heirs or beneficiaries, settling an estate can take an average of six months to one year.

Going to Probate

Probate is the legal, court-supervised process of settling the final affairs of a deceased person. Through this process, the people named as estate administrators in decedents’ wills or who otherwise step up and take responsibility for the job are granted the authority to perform the necessary tasks. The tasks required to finalize and close an estate include:

  • Presenting the will to the probate court
  • Giving notice to the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs
  • Giving notice to all known creditors of the estate
  • Conducting an inventory of the probate property
  • Distributing property to the heirs in accordance with the will’s provisions or state’s intestacy law

Additionally, the estate’s outstanding debts must be paid off before the estate can be closed.

What Factors Can Lengthen the Process?

Several factors may come up while probating an estate that may draw out the process and add to the time needed to settle it. Some estates contain assets, such as business interests, that are not as easily dealt with as other property and may take longer to separate and disseminate. Tax obligations of the estate may also act as a speedbump in settling estates as the processing of tax returns and refunds is handled on the Internal Revenue Service’s timetable.

Will contests can also draw out the process of settling an estate. Heirs, beneficiaries, or other interested parties may take legal action to challenge the validity of a will or of certain bequests made within it. In such cases, the court may hold formal hearings in order to assess whether the will should be upheld or not.

Do All Estates Go Through Probate?

Certain smaller estates do not require formal probate court proceedings. Rather, the estates’ legatees may use small estate affidavits to claim their inheritances. The option of bypassing the formal probate process is available to estates that do not hold any real estate and are valued at less than $100,000. Settling an estate using small estate affidavits may require no more time than it takes to fill out the necessary form, obtain the death certificate, and take possession of the inherited assets.

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