To shortcut the extensive and expensive probate process, Illinois law allows individuals to use an affidavit to receive an asset from a small estate.
According to Illinois probate attorney Kevin Williams, a typical probate case in Illinois takes between 6 and 12 months to complete. However, Williams cautions that some take much longer due to complications or individual complexities.
Smaller estates may have a faster option. Illinois probate attorney and Chicago Estate Planning Council member Jeffrey Gottlieb says that a small estate affidavit can be used to transfer the decedent's property to his beneficiaries -- if the estate value is less than $100,000 -- without having to go through the formal probate process. Unlike with probate forms, the small estate affidavit is not filed with the court and is instead provided to third parties that hold the decedent's assets.
Review the decedent's will and determine if the assets are worth less than $100,000. Check if there are any complexities involved in the case that may make the small estate affidavit inappropriate to use, such as having unpaid funeral expenses, unpaid creditors, minor beneficiaries, disabled beneficiaries or unknown assets. Gottlieb advises to avoid using the small estate affidavit if the will is likely to be challenged or if probate proceedings have already been initiated.
Download the small estate affidavit form. Alternatively, request the form from the probate court's clerk. The content of the form is dictated by state law.
Go through the form, line by line. Include your name, address and service of process information on the appropriate lines.
Write the decedent's name, address before death and time and date of death on the appropriate lines.
Write down the assets that the decedent owned at death on line 6 of the affidavit. Beside each asset, list the fair market value of each item.
If you decide to use a small estate affidavit despite the decedent owing debts, list the decedent's debts on line 7 of the affidavit in the respective category. For example, list any outstanding funeral debts beside Class 1 and debts owed to the state of Illinois beside Class 6.
Write down the names of the decedent's spouse and dependent children. Compute the amount that is allowable to the surviving beneficiaries, which is $20,000 for the surviving spouse and $10,000 each for the dependent children who resided with the decedent at the time of his death. List the names of the beneficiaries and their respective shares on line 10(b) if the decedent had a will. If the decedent had no will, list the decedent's rightful heirs and the portion of the estate that they are entitled to under Illinois' laws of intestacy.
Sign the affidavit in front of a notary public. Attach the death certificate with the affidavit and supply it to the third party that you want to relinquish the decedent's property.