Probating a will can be both expensive and time-consuming. Because of this, Illinois law allows estates that are valued at $100,000 or less to be transferred to heirs through what is called a small estate affidavit process. This procedure is less expensive and faster than a full probate proceeding.
To be able to use the small estate affidavit in Illinois, you must meet the following requirements:
- The person who died didn't own any real property at the time of death.
- The total of all other property does not exceed $100,000.
- A probate court has not issued a letter of office, which authorizes the executor of the deceased's will to distribute property.
- If there was a will, it was filed with the clerk of the court for the county in which the deceased lived for at least 30 days before their death.
- There are no contests to the will or to who should be an heir that you are aware of.
- If there are unpaid debts of the deceased (including funeral costs), you have listed them on the affidavit and promise to pay them.
- To file the affidavit, you must be either the executor of the decedent's will if there is one, or someone who would inherit through Illinois state intestacy laws if there is no will.
Once you've made sure you meet these qualifications, you can complete the Illinois small estate affidavit.
How to Fill Out a Small Estate Affidavit in Illinois
Use the online Small Estate Affidavit or obtain a copy from your local court. To complete the form:
- Fill in your name and information in #1.
- Complete the information about the decedent in #2-4.
- Mark either #7a or #7b depending on what is true. If you mark #7b, then you must complete Classes 1-7 below #7b with information about the decedent's outstanding debts.
- Complete #9a to indicate the names of the spouse and children if any.
- For #9b, if there is surviving spouse, determine the award due the surviving spouse by multiplying $10,000 by the number of minor children and adult dependent children and adding this to $20,000. If there is no surviving spouse, then leave #9b blank and complete #9c.
- Complete #10. Fill in part (a) if there is no will. Fill in part (b) if there is a will.
- For #10.3, fill in your relationship to the decedent.
- For #11, fill in how the property will be distributed after all of the debts and expenses you have itemized in the Classes section of the form under #7 are paid.
- Sign the form in the presence of a notary.
- Attach a copy of the death certificate to the form.
- Make copies of this form so that you can give them to companies or people holding the decedent's property that you are trying to access.
How to Use a Small Estate Affidavit
Using the affidavit is simple. Once you've completed it, you don't need to file it with the court. You just give a copy of it to the companies or people holding the property you are seeking to transfer. This will notify them that they can release the property to you.
Having the right estate planning documents in place—before they are needed—is another way you show your loved ones that you care, and is critical, whether the deceased's estate is large or small.