Probate is always filed first in a person's "domicile," which is normally the last state they lived in with the intent to make a permanent home there. If that person has real estate or physical property located in any other state, they need to get papers from the court and establish what is called "ancillary probate" in those other states.
Certainly, the caretakers of an incapacitated person have the ability to change the person's domicile, so I don't think either SC or IL would deny probate. Given the facts, I'd suggest treating Illinois as your mother's domicile and opening just the original probate estate there. Hire an IL attorney to handle the claims and hearings and you may be able to avoid traveling North altogether.
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I believe IL would be the place of filing the probate despite her (eventual/expected) death in SC because SC was not her domicile, only her temporary residence while in process of recovery or as a convenience to the family in caring for her. I recommend you consult with an IL Probate attorney to get another opinion.
I agree with Mr. Steingraber and Mr. Rosenberg. Consult an Illinois attorney that practices probate law in the county of residence or county where the real property is located.
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To add to the answers above, there is a simple solution to avoid probate (as a practical matter) unless it is absolutely necessary, but you would need to contact an Illinois attorney ASAP. With respect to the IL real estate, your mother could execute a "beneficiary deed" (which is recognized in AZ) that would allow the property to pass without probate upon death. With respect to the personal items, you and your brother could divide them up informally amongst you. The IRA and the life insurance would pass outside of probate either way. If you and your brother get along and your mother has no significant debts (I.e., you and your brother could pay directly without the necessity of probate), it could be a simple and expedient alternative.
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