Probate, Estate, Trust Administration

Matthew R. Hess offers compassionate representation to individuals and families who are grieving the loss with a loved one and find themselves appointed as the executor or administrator of that person’s estate. When a person dies, ownership of their assets must be transferred to others. If a person had a valid will in place, the estate’s representative is called an “executor,” and s/he will be responsible for distributing their loved one’s possessions according to the terms of the will. If a person dies without a will, the estate’s representative is called an “administrator,” and that person will be responsible to distribute property according to Illinois’ intestacy statute.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal court process of administering a person’s estate. Whether or not a decedent left a will, probate may or may not be required. The probate process can be time consuming and expensive, and one of the goals of estate planning is to avoid probate. Oftentimes, probate cannot be avoided, and the court must be relied upon the rule upon the validity of a person’s will and to oversee the administration of the estate.

The probate can be complex, and Illinois law requires all executors and administrators to be represented by a lawyer. Matthew R. Hess has extensive experience in guiding executors and administrators through the probate process, helping them collect and distribute a deceased person’s belongings, negotiating or paying any outstanding bills or claims, and keeping all of the other heirs and legatees duly informed about the administration of the estate.

Probate Litigation

When a person passes away in Illinois, there are certain circumstances under which their estate may need to go through probate. During this court-supervised process, the decedent’s assets and property are administered to their beneficiaries. But unfortunately, even when a comprehensive estate plan is in place, probate is not always without conflict. In these cases, it may be necessary to resolve disputes in litigation.

Probate litigation can have a significant impact on you and your family. Attorney Matthew R. Hess understands how emotionally overwhelming it can be to not only lose a loved one — but also to contest their will or fight to uphold their wishes while you’re grieving. When you are represented by Mr. Hess, you can rest assured that you will have counsel by your side with the knowledge and acumen to secure the best possible results in your case.

When is Probate Required in Illinois?

Probate refers to the process of validating a decedent’s will and distributing their assets to their chosen beneficiaries. In cases where an individual died without a will, their property will be passed to their heirs in accordance with the Illinois intestate law. However, the probate process isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Not only can the emotions of family members run high, but there are often complicated legal issues that arise.

While most estates are subject to probate, it is not always required under Illinois law. Specifically, it is necessary in cases in which the total value of the decedent’s estate exceeds $100,000 and the assets are solely in their name — or the decedent possessed real estate that was not jointly owned. Generally, assets that do not go through probate include those that are contained in a trust. Life insurance and accounts with beneficiary designations are also typically excluded from probate.

Regardless of whether probate is necessary in your case, having skilled counsel by your side is essential. A probate attorney can provide you with crucial insight regarding the legal process and help to ensure no mistakes are made during property distribution. They can also protect your interests in the event someone raises a challenge to your loved one’s will or contests the distributions of a trust.

Skillful Representation Helping You Navigate the Complexities of Probate Litigation

The probate process doesn’t always go smoothly. While every estate is different and has unique issues that must be settled, some can only be resolved with litigation. For instance, you might feel you were wrongfully excluded from your loved one’s will or have reason to believe the decedent executed the document under duress. In other cases, an executor might have failed to adhere to their fiduciary duties, or a trustee may need to be held accountable for mishandling funds.

Hess Law Firm assists clients with litigating a wide variety of issues that can arise during the probate process, including the following:

  • Challenging the validity of a will
  • Contesting the appointment of a personal representative
  • Disputing accountings
  • Removal of fiduciaries
  • Guardianship litigation matters
  • Asset recovery
  • Heirship disputes
  • Breach of fiduciary duty issues
  • Theft, mismanagement, and improper withdrawal of funds

Probate litigation is not the same as other types of civil actions. These matters are governed by the Illinois Probate Act — there are strict statutes of limitation and specific rules that apply. It’s crucial to have the representation of an attorney who understands the nuances associated with contested probate claims to obtain the most favorable results. Mr. Hess has extensive experience handling a wide variety of probate litigation matters and is dedicated to offering compassionate counsel as he helps his clients navigate the complexities of the process.

Adept Appellate Advocacy for Probate Matters

Attorney Matthew R. Hess devotes his practice to representing those who find themselves in the middle of trusts and estates disputes. He knows how stressful the court process can be after the loss of a loved one and strives to ease the burden his clients face. Not only has Mr. Hess earned a well-deserved reputation in the legal field for his ability to command the courtroom, but he is also proficient in advocating for the interests of his clients at the appellate level.

Throughout the probate litigation process, the trial judge will issue a number of orders prior to making a final determination in the case. Sometimes, these interlocutory orders can involve injunctions, or the judge may issue decisions on claims made against the parties. While not all orders issued by the court are appealable, some are. For instance, final judgments that resolve all claims made against each party can be appealed — as well as specific types of partial final judgments.

Arguing an appeal is very different from litigating a case at trial — it requires precision, acumen, and a specific set of skills. Mr. Hess knows how to identify the vital issues in a probate matter to help ensure a successful appeal in even the most complicated cases.

Trust Administration

Trusts have become a very common estate planning tool because probate can be avoided when they are prepared and funded appropriately. Nonetheless, when a loved one dies and leaves behind a trust, Illinois law imposes certain fiduciary duties upon the person who becomes the trustee. Retaining a knowledgeable lawyer to help guide you through the trust administration process can lead to a more efficient administration of the trust and can help you avoid breaching your fiduciary duties, which can lead to protracted trust litigation.

Matthew R. Hess has extensive experience both in administering trusts and representing fiduciaries in contested trust litigation. He will help you oversee matters to avoid disputes before they arise. One of the reasons why trusts are an effective estate planning tool is because they are private, allowing a person to keep the details of their estate private. However, this secrecy can be lost if a trust is not administered correctly because it can lead to other beneficiaries filing breach of fiduciary duty lawsuits. With knowledgeable and compassionate legal representation, such claims can often be avoided.


The probate courts also oversee the estates of minors and persons with disabilities. When such estates are opened for a minor or person with a disability (the “ward”), the representative of those estates is called a “guardian.” Having a skilled attorney to guide you through the emotional guardianship process is highly recommended.

Matthew R. Hess is experienced with the guardianship process and will provide you with representation in a way that is compassionate and sensitive, yet knowledgeable and assertive. He will walk you through the process of opening a guardianship estate and work with you side-by-side as long as the guardianship is in place.

Although Hess Law Firm is conveniently located in Naperville, Illinois, just off Route 59 and 83rd Street, in close proximity to the suburbs of Plainfield, Aurora, Woodridge, Bolingbrook, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Oswego and Downers Grove, we work with clients from the entire Chicagoland area, and throughout Illinois. Furthermore, we will gladly meet with you at your home or other convenient location if you or a loved one is unable to physically come to the office. We welcome you to contact us to learn more or to schedule a consultation.