​The loss of a loved one can be devastating. Not only are you mourning the death of your family member, but you are also faced with managing their affairs, which can include gathering their assets, paying debts, renting or selling their real estate, and distributing their property to family members. Property includes more than real estate. It also includes:

  • ​Real estate
  • Bank Accounts (checking, saving, money market accounts, CDs, etc.)
  • Insurance accounts
  • Retirement accounts (401k, pension funds)
  • Personal property like jewelry, furniture, cars, etc.

The level of difficulty in settling their affairs usually depends on how much property your loved one owned, whether the deceased had a will or living trust (Testate) or died without an estate plan (Intestate). In some instances, your loved one may have a Small Estate, which means the deceased didn’t own real estate and/or the property is valued at less than $100,000. Illinois law allows you to settle a Small Estate using the Small Estate Affidavit. If the estate includes real estate and/or property valued at more than $100,000, you will likely have to go through the Probate Court process to pay their outstanding debts and distribute the property to loved ones.


  • The SEA should not be used when:
    • The deceased owned real estate
    • There are unpaid creditors or funeral expenses;
    • ​The will is not valid, or it is likely the family will dispute it​.
    • There are disagreements over who the heirs are​.
    • There are minors or disabled beneficiaries​.
    • All estate assets are not known.
    • Click here to download the Small Estate Affidavit.

What Happens in Probate Court?

The probate laws of Illinois are very technical and govern 3 types of proceedings:

  1. Settling the affairs of the deceased.
  2. Guardianship of Minors.
  3. Guardianship of disabled or incapacitated adults.

When settling the affairs of a deceased person and as long as no disputes between family members arise, there are 4 Steps of the Probate Court Process.

  1. Identifying Property and Assets Belonging to your Loved One.
  2. Getting Control of the Property through the Court.
  3. Paying Bills and Necessary Expenses.
  4. Distributing Property to Beneficiaries.



In Cook County, judges generally require you to be represented by a lawyer in probate court because the process is very long and technical.  Attorney Smith and her team pride themselves on providing compassionate and effective legal representation.  Our goal is to use plain English to explain the law and guide you through the court process. We strive to lessen the burden of probate court so that you can gain the blessing of peace of mind.

To learn more about our services, please contact Attorney Smith at 312-868-0781 or gmsmith@jamiilaw.com for a FREE 30-minute phone consultation.