In this article we explain the responsibilities of an executor in Illinois probate cases. Probate is the process that must take place for certain property to be legally distributed to the heirs of an estate, per a deceased person’s will. This process is administered by the executor of the estate and the courts. For some foundational information about probate, check out our article: What is Probate?: An Introduction to Probate in Illinois.
The Executor is often named in a person’s will as the person who will deal with administering the estate. This person is given significant legal power and responsibility over the estate by the courts. Because an executor has so many responsibilities to the estate, they are often compensated at an hourly rate which is laid out and takes into consideration any objections by heirs to the estate. If there are objections to the compensation, a court may determine what is fair.
The first responsibility of the executor is to make sure the will is properly filed with the county court. This varies depending on where the deceased person lived, so the executor will have to determine the proper place to file the will based on residence.
Next, the executor is responsible for filing a petition for probate. This must be completed within 30 days or the court may determine the executor unfit to handle the estate. The probate court will officially name the person appointed as the executor and will provide them with the correct documentation to be able to work with financial institutions and government bodies to marshall the assets of the estate for distribution to heirs and creditors.
One of the most tedious steps that the executor must complete is determining the value of the deceased person’s assets as well as totaling all the debt the deceased had. The executor must notify any relevant heirs of the estate as well as all creditors of the deceased person’s death. A claims publication must also be arranged for any other creditors to make a claim about the deceased person’s outstanding debt.
Lastly, the executor must present an accounting of all the assets and how they were distributed between the beneficiaries. The accounting also explains everything the executor has done for the estate and a detailed list of bill payments or other actions that were taken for the estate. Once the accounting has been agreed upon by all relevant parties and the distributions have been made, the executor can ask the probate court to close the estate.
It is normally best for an executor to open an account for the estate before taking any action, this account can then be used to pay the estate’s bills and to ensure the proper bookkeeping of all money. If the will does not specify what should be done with the deceased’s property, the executor must make arrangements to have the property sold and the money distributed between beneficiaries. Once all debts have been paid, if there is still money left in the estate, the executor will propose the distribution of the money. If there were specific instructions in the will about how to administer these funds, the executor must follow them. Otherwise, the executor will propose how he/she believes the estate should be split and all beneficiaries must sign onto the plan for it to be valid.