Probate Shortcuts in Illinois

Save time and money when you wrap up a simple estate in Illinois.

Updated by , Attorney · George Mason University Law School

Illinois offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." If your loved one died and left property behind, you might be able to transfer that property using simplified probate procedures or without any probate court proceedings at all. If so, you'll be able to save some of the time, money, and hassle associated with regular probate.

A "small estate" might be one with a small value (defined by state law), or one that is particularly uncomplicated. Below, learn the rules for qualifying for one of Illinois' probate shortcuts, and find out whether you can ultimately skip or speed up probate.

Claiming Personal Property With a Small Estate Affidavit

Illinois has a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is $100,000 or less. All an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that the inheritor is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. When the person or institution holding the asset—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account—gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset. (755 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/25-1 (2024).)

To qualify, the estate must meet these requirements:

  • the value of the estate is $100,000 or less
  • the estate doesn't include real estate, and
  • no letters of office have been issued and no petition for letters is anticipated (practically speaking, this means there's no open probate case, and no one is about to open a probate case).

(755 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/25-1 (2024).)

You can request a form small estate affidavit from the probate court clerk in the county where the deceased person lived.

The affidavit must contain specific information, including:

  • the deceased person's name, address, and date of death
  • your name
  • a description of the property, and
  • a list of the deceased person's funeral expenses and other debts, and
  • specific statements required by law, such as the fact that the estate doesn't exceed $100,000.

You'll also sign it under oath (before a notary public), and attach a copy of the death certificate and a copy of the will, if there was a will. (755 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/25-1 (2024).)

Simplified Probate in Illinois: Summary Administration

Even if they don't qualify for the small estate affidavit procedure discussed above, small estates in Illinois an might still qualify for a probate shortcut called "summary administration" or "summary probate." With this procedure, you won't skip probate entirely, but you will be able to bypass a large portion of it. In other words, probate will be sped up, and the costs of probate will be lower.

To request summary administration, you file a written request or "petition" with the local probate court. If approved, you can then immediately distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.

To qualify for summary administration, the estate must meet these requirements:

  • the value of the estate is $100,000 or less
  • all claims against the estate (such as debts) are either paid or listed in the petition
  • no federal estate tax or Illinois estate tax is owed, or all such taxes have been paid or provided for
  • all heirs (those who would receive property under state intestacy laws) and inheritors (those who would receive property under a will) agree in writing to summary administration
  • each beneficiary gives a surety bond (in proportion to what assets they receive), and the bond is approved by the court, and
  • notice of the petition is published at least once a week for three weeks, and other notice requirements are met.

(755 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/9-8 (2024).)

Of note, the requirement that heirs and inheritors consent to the summary administration effectively means that this probate shortcut is unavailable if there is disagreement or family conflict over the estate.

Getting More Help With Illinois Probate

For more information on probate in Illinois, also see the following Nolo articles:

Nolo also offers several resources and tools to help with Illinois probate. If you're an executor or personal representative of an estate and tasked with wrapping up a loved one's property, you can consult a probate attorney or the comprehensive book The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), for further help.

    On the other hand, if you're interested in actively planning now to minimize probate costs for your loved ones after your death, consider these next steps:

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