Is Probate Required for All Estates?

No, it is not. Below is a simple chart showing the need for probate in certain cases. In other cases, the protections and mechanisms of probate are sought out as matter of legal strategy.

Estates Subject to Probate in Illinois


Total Assets Before Debts
Probate Result
$0 – $100,000 (no real estate)Most estates of this size may be administered via a Small Estate Affidavit (unless assets include real estate)
Over $100,000 (or real estate)Estate is subject to Probate


Assets Not Subject To Probate


Certain assets are not subject to probate. Generally speaking, the test for determining if an asset is subject to probate is whether: (a) it was owned at the time of death by the decedent (person who died), in his individual capacity, and (b) the terms of ownership do not provide for an automatic transfer on death to a new holder.  Examples of assets not subject to probate include the following:

  • Assets held by joint owners with right of survivorship
  • Assets with named beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts or annuities
  • Assets held in Trust name.


At the date of death, it is the duty of the Executor (if there is a Will) or Administrator (if there is no Will) to determine what assets the decedent owned and how the decedent held them (individually, joint owner, etc.). The Executor/Administrator then has a duty to request “probate” (called “administration” if no Will) for any assets subject to probate.

For more information on probate and other estate planning topics, see:

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