For a will to be valid in Illinois, the person who drafted the will must have been at least 18 years old and of sound mind when he wrote it. The drafter must have signed the will in the presence of two witnesses, and the witnesses must have signed the will as well. When the will drafter dies, the individual named as the executor in the will has 30 days to present the will in the appropriate probate court or inform the court he does not want to serve as executor. Any interested party in relation to the estate has six months to file a petition contesting the validity of the will.
If there is no valid will, the decedent’s estate is placed in intestacy. This means that the court will appoint an administrator to oversee the probate process. In intestacy, the court will distribute the property to the surviving spouse and relatives of the decedent. Anyone 18 or older may act as the administrator, but the court will grant preference to the surviving spouse, the decedent’s children, the decedent’s parent or some person nominated by one of those family members. When applying for the administrator position, the applicant must deliver notice via mail to each person who is entitled to administer the estate at least 30 days before the trial.
Once the executor or administrator has been appointed, he must provide an inventory of all of the decedent’s property to be included in the estate within 60 days of his appointment. The administrator must publish an ad in the local newspaper, once a week for three straight weeks, notifying the general public of the decedent’s death. The administrator must also mail a notice to all of the decedent’s known creditors, notifying them of the decedent’s death. The prospective claimants have six months to file a claim with the estate; if the claimants do not, they lose their right to recover what they are owed from the estate.
Guardianship of a Child
If the decedent left behind a minor child, or someone under the age of 18, the probate process can address who should take care of the child in the short term. A person who is at least 18, a resident of the U.S., of sound mind, and has not been convicted of a felony can become a child’s guardian. The court must also find that the person is capable of taking care of the child. The court may appoint a short-term guardian, who can care for the child for 365 days. During the short-term guardian’s term, the family court can determine who will be the permanent guardian of the child.