My aunt lived in Chicago for more than 55 years. She owned no property in Illinois--no house, no car, no jewels, etc. She never married. She died recently with a valid will in which she listed 4 individuals (me and my 3 siblings as sole heirs.) We have the original Will. There are no creditors, all bills have been paid, her apartment has been cleaned out and all personal items donated to either Salvation Army or personal friends. The sole property that was owned by my aunt includes 2 separate stock accounts. Current value approximately $800,000. The accounts are held in 2 separate national brokerage firms.
My siblings agree that I will be the designated personal representative of the estate. I live in Arizona and have no contacts in Illinois. An informal probate process would help us rather than having to hire an attorney who may charge thousands for this simple uncontested probate.
Assuming that your aunt did not have any joint owners or beneficiaries named on the stock accounts, then unfortunately probate through the court system is required. There is no way around it. There is a small estate procedure, but that only applies to estates under $100,000.00.
I agree with Ms. Whitehead. The Small Estate Affidavit can be used in estates with less than $100,000.00, but whether this estate qualifies will depend on how the stock accounts were titled. Often a beneficiary is designated and if that is the case they will likely not be part of the calculation. If they were owned solely in her name with no death beneficiary then probate will be required.
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Illinois does have an informal process - called a "small estate affidavit" - for estates that are valued at less than $100,000. But if the value of the estate is $800,000, then a small estate affidavit cannot be used.
You can use what is called "independent administration." That is still a court process, but it means that most actions are done without the direct involvement of the court, unless an issue arises. It does still require certain formalities, like a petition, an affidavit of heirship, notices to heirs and publication notice to creditors. And you will need an attorney to represent you through the process.
I note that you mentioned that your siblings agree that you will be personal rep. Does the will itself appoint you as executor? If it does, and if the will waives surety, then you would not need to post a surety bond. That will be a significant savings.
I recommend that you contact a probate attorney directly to discuss more specifics and how the process works.
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I agree with the other two lawyers. Unless there was a joint owner or a named beneficiary for those accounts, I think you're stuck going through probate. The good news is that it will be a pretty easy probate estate. People get really concerned about the costs of probate, but in a simple situation like this, it really isn't that bad. The worst part is the time delay (6 months to a year) before the money is completely available. But often a portion can be distributed before the end of that period. In short, yes, you will likely need a probate estate - but it shouldn't be that bad. Incidentally, most probate lawyers help out of town family with these types of estates all the time. Not being here is not that big of a deal. Sorry for your loss.
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