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How long does it take to finalize/distribution of a will after a death?

Chicago, IL |

My brother-in-law (sister deceased) left everything to me in his will. House, money, car, etc. I am going through the attorney that he used to draw up his will to help me with everything. I payed for his funeral, medical bills, upkeep/utilities on his house, etc. out of my pocket. His attorney said that in Chicago it will probably take until June 2013 until everything is settled and is charging me $250 an hour and wanted $2,500 up front and will take the remaining out of the settlement. Can you tell me if this time frame is accurate and if so why so long. Also, maybe some details on what all this attorney has to do so I can get an idea of what to expect on her charges?

Attorney Answers 5


  1. I cannot speak directly to Illinois law, because I am not licensed there. But since no one Illinois probate lawyers have taken this on, I will give you some ideas.

    I have written a guide on what is involved in probating an estate in Michigan. You can find that, here: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/how-to-probate-an-estate-in-michigan

    I would expect there will be many similarities. I also have a detailed description of the probate process posted on my website, which you can access at the link, below.

    The basic idea is that you need to determine whether or not there are creditor claims and deal with claims there are. You need to transfer title to all of the assets from the decedent to you. This is not necessarily time-consuming, but it can be, if the intent is to sell the property, from the estate. The house sale is one thing that could tie things up. In Michigan, an estate is required to be open for 6 months. It can take longer than that, but 6 months is the minimum.

    In Michigan, it normally takes about 30 hours worth of work (on the part of attorney and paralegal) to administer an estate, from start to finish. It may be a little more or less depending on the circumstances. If there was anyone involved other than you, and there was any dispute about the distribution of assets, that could result in delays and higher costs.

    James Frederick

    I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state.


  2. There are time frames built into the process of probating an estate. For example, a publication is generally required that shortens the period within which creditors are allowed to make claims. The court automatically gives a 14 month status date when a case is first presented. This generally allows enough time for everything to be done. (Hence, June 2013).

    The information provided here should not be construed to be formal legal advice. The provision of this general advice does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Persons with legal questions are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.


  3. I am licensed in Florida so do not know IL probate law, but it should not be that long. Unless he has an extensive estate it may take some time. The initial retainer is fair, but in Florida attorneys are limited to charging a fee of 3% of the estate.

    Statements made are for informational purposes and are merely a legal opinion.


  4. A probate estate must remain open for SIX months, to allow for the filing of claims. If the house is to be sold, that may be why this attorney believes that the estate will not be ready to close until June of 2013.

    The fees are reasonable, as is the retainer.


  5. First off, you have an attorney. If you did not understand entirely, you should have asked your attorney, who is familiar with the facts and can best assess his own schedule on this. Effective communication between you and your counsel will serve you much better than seeking information through other attorneys.

    An efficient time-frame would be one year. The factor that impacts a simple estate is the six month period for claims. So, assuming you meet with the attorney, some time will be needed to complete the documents, get your signature and get the case filed. Then, claims notices are published and mailed. The first publication date starts the claims period, although you need to be careful that the attorney has received from you the names of all creditors of which you could reasonably know. Not doing so can lead to delays. Once the claim period expires, then documents to close out the estate can be considered, again with some time needed for circulating things. All this assumes that everything is straightforward, as it sounds like it should be if everything was left to you, but there are probably other legal heirs who must be notified and who may have questions and may need to participate. Also, if the house is to be sold, there may be a decision to be made whether to keep the estate open for that purpose. Really, your attorney needs to be having this discussion with you. Note, however, that if there are funds in the estate you should be able to be reimbursed for certain expenses since those would have priority.

    The scope of this space does not afford an opportunity to adequately advise you. The response provided is intended to be informative, but not final. You are advised to arrange a consultation at which all facts and documents can be explored and terms for representation agreed. An attorney-client relationship must be formally established.

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