Probate is the division of Illinois' court system that deals with the assets of the deceased. 

What is Probate?

When a person dies, their death must be made known to the state. The first way this is done is with a death certificate. After the death certificate has been recorded with the state, the distribution of the deceased's assets can start. To begin that process, certain documents need to be filed with the state. After they are filed, and any taxes or fees are paid, it is now legal for those named in the will to take ownership of the gifted assets. This process is also known as Probate. 

When do I need to start the Probate process?

Dealing with the death of a loved one can be a difficult thing. Depending on the circumstances, the shock and grief of the death can linger for a while. Starting the Probate process can be a helpful first step towards recovery. Usually, if more than one person is named in the will, the quicker assets are given out, the happier everyone is. When multiple people are named in the will, the beginning of the Probate process usually happens anywhere from days after to weeks after the death. If only a single person is named in the will (often a spouse, child, or close friend) the Probate process might begin weeks or months after the death.

Can I use assets (such as a home or property) if they are left to me, but the Probate process has not started?

The odds of someone getting into legal trouble for using a property left to them in a not-yet-filed will are slim. However, if there are multiple people named in the will, especially if multiple people are to "inherit" one piece of property, getting through Probate as soon as possible can prevent unnecessary headaches and disputes.