Probate Court

Overview
Criminal Court, Divorce Court, and Juvenile Court are easily recognized through newspapers, radio and television. However one does not hear or read about Probate Court unless a friend or family member has died or become disabled.

The major functions of Probate Court include the supervision of estates for those who have died, become disabled, and related affairs of a minor. Due to the complexity of laws and procedures in probate, you are encouraged to seek the advice of a lawyer.

Handbook
The Probate Guide Handbook (PDF) will inform you about the types of cases heard in Probate Court as well as familiarize you with some of the legal terminology often associated with probate cases. This booklet was designed to let you, the reader, become more informed about the Probate Court in Lake County, Illinois.

The purpose of this handbook is to provide an introduction to and a general outline of the Lake County Probate Court for the lay person. It is not intended as a guide for those who would like to handle probate matters without the assistance of an attorney. Probate law can be specialized and difficult to understand for those without legal training. It is always advisable that an attorney be consulted.

The word "probate" is not part of our common vocabulary. It is derived from Latin words meaning "a thing that is approved" and "to test and find good." In Illinois, a Probate Court is a particular court which has power over the administration of the estates of deceased persons, as well as living persons whom the law recognizes as being unable to handle their own affairs.

Types of Cases
Generally, 3 types of matters are handled in Probate Court:
  1. The administration of the property of a deceased person ("decedent's estate");
  2. The administration of personal and financial affairs for any individual suffering from extreme mental and/or physical disabilities ("disabled's estate"), and
  3. The supervision of the financial affairs of someone under eighteen years of age ("minor's estate").
Laws & Regulations
The particular law that applies in any of these cases is written in the form of statutes, which are drafted by the State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. The complete text of the Probate Act may be found in the Illinois Revised Statutes, Chapter 110 1/2. From time to time, these statutes are applied by courts throughout the State of Illinois, with the written and reported court decisions providing interpretations of the statutes which must be followed.

Average Cases
Any citizen can find himself or herself involved in a Probate Court proceeding, either through the death of a relative or the disability of a friend or other family member. The Probate Court in Lake County is a particularly busy one, with nearly 3,000 cases pending at any one time. The types of cases that have been described do represent the great majority of matters heard, amounting to more than 90% of the cases placed on the Probate Court's docket on any given day. Matters heard less frequently include petitions authorizing emergency surgery and requests that terminally ill patients be removed from life support devices.

Benefits of Probate Court
The benefits of the Probate Court's requirements and supervision are to assure that the intent of a deceased person concerning the distribution of his or her estate is carried out in an orderly manner and that the personal and property rights of living persons that the law finds to be disabled are protected from waste, abuse or neglect. The rules under which the proceedings are handled are often voluminous and specific.

Advisement
Again it is always advisable that anyone with a potential case to be handled by the Probate Court consult an attorney to ensure that the matter is handled both legally and efficiently.