Probate Courts (Illinois)

State: Illinois

The first Illinois General Assembly gave the county commissioners’ court jurisdiction concerning probate matters, such as proving wills and settling estates. In 1821, the General Assembly removed probate jurisdiction from the county commissioners' court and created the probate court to handle estate settlements. The probate judge for each county held court two times each month. The General Assembly appointed the probate judges, who also had sole jurisdiction to hear and to determine all applications for discharge from imprisonment for debt. In 1837, the General Assembly abolished the probate courts and created the probate justice of the peace courts. Qualified voters elected a probate justice of the peace, who had the same powers and jurisdiction in civil cases as other justices of the peace and held office for a term of four years. In 1845, the General Assembly reduced the term to two years. The probate justice of the peace had jurisdiction in all cases of debt in which the executor or administrator was a party and the demand did not exceed $1,000. The probate justice of the peace had the power to administer all oaths, to grant letters of administration, to prove wills, and to settle estates. The constitution of 1848 provided for county courts with probate jurisdiction. Qualified voters in a county elected a judge, who held office for a term of four years. The judge held court monthly. The court had jurisdiction in all powers of probate court with concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts in all applications for sale of real estate of deceased persons and payment of debts. Qualified voters elected the county clerk, who also served as recorder of deeds for the county, for four-year terms. Dissatisfied litigants from all variations of the probate court could appeal decisions to the circuit court.

“Court Structure,” in Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), html files/Court Structure.html; An Act to Provide for the Election of Probate Justices of the Peace.