In this article, we explain the termination of guardianship upon the death of a disabled adult in Illinois and answer the question, “what happens after a ward dies in Illinois?” We also answer the questions, “what are the responsibilities of a guardian after a ward dies?” and “who is responsible for managing the estate of a deceased ward?”
For foundational information on guardianship, check out our article: Illinois Guardianship Explained.
Although a guardianship of a disabled adult terminates when the disabled adult passes away, the guardian continues to have certain responsibilities until such responsibilities are transferred to the executor or administrator of the estate in probate. The guardian has a duty to protect the assets of the estate until they are transferred to the custody of the executor or administrator. The guardian must also file a final report with the guardianship court. The final report will account for all estate assets and liabilities as well as income and distributions from the guardianship estate.
When a disabled adult under a guardianship passes away, the guardian remains responsible for the estate of the disabled adult until letters of office are issued to an executor or administrator by the probate court.
An executor is the person appointed by the disabled adult’s will to collect the assets of his or her estate and distribute them to creditors, beneficiaries under the will, and heirs according to state statute in the absence of a will. An administrator is a person appointed by the court to serve this function in the absence of a valid will or a of a named executor who is willing and able to serve.
One of the first steps that a potential executor or administrator will take is to file a petition to open a probate estate and for the issuance of Letters of Office. Letters of Office is a court order that gives the executor or administrator the legal authority to serve as a representative of the estate. For more, check out our article: The Illinois Probate Process Explained.
Once Letters of Office are issued, the power to manage the estate of the deceased ward is transferred from the guardian to the executor or administrator.
If probate is not necessary, then the guardian may distribute the estate by small estate affidavit. For more on this, check out our articles: When is Probate Required in Illinois and Illinois Small Estate Affidavits Explained.
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