What is probate in Illinois?
What is probate? From an etymological view, the word derives from the Latin word “probare”–to prove or examine. From a grammatical point of view, it is a noun, a verb and an adjective. It is a place—the Probate Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County is located on the 18th floor of the Richard J. Daley Center in downtown Chicago. It is a process–”to probate a will” or “probate an estate” means to commence a probate proceeding in the Probate Division of the Circuit Court and follow the procedures set forth in the Illinois Probate Act, the statute that governs probate proceedings. It is a type of asset–the term “probate assets” is generally taken to mean assets that must pass through the probate process. Probate assets are those assets standing in the decedent’s name alone at the time of his or her death. Assets that were held in joint tenancy by the decedent and another are not probate assets since, by virtue of the joint tenancy, those assets pass immediately upon death to the surviving joint tenant. Likewise with assets held in a trust or held in a “pay on death” format. Those assets vest in the designated recipient immediately upon the death of the decedent. Not so with “probate assets”–they need to go through the probate process.
It is an interesting word “probate”. But it is an even more interesting area of law practice. More about that later.