My partner, Ed Reda, provides some thoughts on probate and post-death activity:
We often get calls from people whose loved one has just passed away. And by “just passed away” I mean only hours earlier. Frequently they are very concerned about what steps must be taken - immediately - now that their loved one has died. My standard answer is that the only thing that needs to be done immediately is to call the undertaker.
This perception that something needs to be done almost immediately is a vestige of the old Illinois Inheritance Tax, which was repealed in 1981. In the days of the Illinois Inheritance Tax, all assets of a decedent were automatically frozen until a written release could be obtained from the Illinois Attorney General. It wasn’t an onerous or time consuming task to obtain the release, but, people did not want their loved one’s assets tied up - for even a few days. So, some attorneys would counsel their clients to get to the bank right away and close all of grandma’s bank accounts before her obituary appeared in the paper or the news of her death had become public.
The Illinois Probate Code does require that all original copies of a decedent's will be filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court within thirty days after the date of death. This requirement does not mean a probate estate must be filed, but only that the will itself be brought to the court and turned over to its repository of Last Wills for safekeeping.
The son of one of my oldest clients reminded me of the day his father died. Notwithstanding the fact that I never counseled people to rush to the bank, his mother insisted that they go to the bank and close her husband’s bank accounts, even though her husband had died just minutes earlier. Upon entering the bank that morning, the son told me that the bank guard greeted his mother with “Good morning Mrs. Clay. How’s Mr. Clay today?” Her answer was a classic – “Not good. He’s not feeling well at all today.”
So, when someone close to you dies, take your time to plan their funeral and mourn your loss. There seldom is anything of a legal nature that can’t wait until after the funeral.