The current common wisdom is that one should avoid the expense, delay, and effort of
probating an estate. This common wisdom begs the question: “Why is an estate
While in many cases it is undoubtedly desirable to avoid the expense and delay of probate,
this argument has been overstated. First, elaborate efforts to avoid probate may in fact be
more expensive and time consuming than the actual probate proceeding. Independent
administration may not only cost less than such elaborate efforts, the expenses of probate are
incurred years later, and after the person’s death. Further, circumstances beyond the person’s
death may make probate necessary regardless.
When any person or corporation (1) indebted to or holding the personal estate of a
decedent, (2) controlling the right of access to a decedent’s safe-deposit box, or (3) acting as
registrar or transfer agent of any evidence of interest, indebtedness, property or right is
furnished with a small estate affidavit in substantially the form set out in the statute, the person
or corporation must pay the indebtedness, grant access to the safe-deposit box, deliver the
personal estate or transfer or issue the evidence of interest, indebtedness, property or right to
the persons and in the manner specified in paragraph 11 of the affidavit or to an agent
appointed in the manner described. 755 ILCS 5/25-1.
If safe-deposit access is involved or if sale of any personal property is desirable to facilitate
distribution under a small estate affidavit, all persons named in paragraph 11 of the small
estate affidavit (except minors and unascertained or disabled persons) may in writing appoint
one or more persons as their agent for that purpose. The agent may, without court approval,
gain access to, sell, and distribute the property for the benefit of all persons named in
paragraph 11 of the affidavit; and the payment, delivery, transfer, access or issuance shall be
made or granted to or on the order of the agent. 755 ILCS 5/25-1(c).