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Strict Pleading Rules Do Not Apply in Probate Cases

The Fourth District Appellate Court in Illinois this week decided that in pleading an affirmative defense or a counterclaim to a claim filed against the estate, the executors or administrators are not required to plead those defenses or counterclaims under the same rules that apply to other civil lawsuits. See, In Estate of Craig v Zink, 2016 IL App (4th) 150939. The Court found that the Illinois legislature intended pleadings that assert claims against an estate and any defenses or counterclaims, were intended to be evaluated under more relaxed standards than pleadings in a formal lawsuit. The Court also noted that this interpretation is consistent with with the purpose of the Probate Act, namely to facilitate the early settlement of an estate. While this may appear to be good news for those seeking a speedy resolution of estate claims, persons or businesses who file claims against an estate should be aware that under this ruling, an administrator or executor can now defend those claims without necessarily having to provide all of the facts or even a detailed explanation of the legal theories that support the Estate's position prior to the hearing on the claim.

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