Choosing an Executor for Your Estate

executorEstate planning is arguably one of the most important things a person will do during their entire life, and as such, everything matters. The slightest discrepancy may be attacked, and your wishes may not be honored if your estate is not set up and administered properly. Perhaps the most important choice you must make while estate planning is picking your executor, who can ensure that your wishes are carried out as you prefer and act on your behalf.

Responsibilities of an Executor

A person who has been named executor in Illinois has 30 days following the death of the testator in which to either submit the will for probate or refuse the appointment. The responsibility of managing another’s estate is significant, and with that in mind, it is important to pick the right person. The instinct for many is to choose their spouse, but this is not always the best choice, especially if you are of similar ages. He or she may be elderly and/or ill when the time comes for them to assume the role.

Whomever you choose must be able to fulfill all of the duties of the office. These include:

  • Informing the relevant authorities and your creditors of your passing, and in some instances, your family;
  • Paying any outstanding debts incurred in your lifetime by you or your estate;
  • Ensuring your spouse’s or family’s well-being until the estate is settled (i.e. paying rent or mortgage payments, bills, etc.);
  • Paying estate taxes;
  • Hiring the right attorney to help probate the estate; and
  • Dealing with any questions or concerns of putative beneficiaries during the process.

Generally speaking, an executor has a fiduciary duty to act appropriately toward all involved parties while safeguarding the assets of the estate.

Who Can Serve as Executor?

An executor has responsibilities that may last years and be quite complex in nature. Illinois, like many other states, does have restrictions on who may serve, though there are not as many as there are elsewhere. To serve as an executor, a person must be over the age of 18, a U.S. resident (not necessarily a citizen), and they must not have been judged to be incapacitated in any way by a court. They must also be free of any condition that would require guardianship.

It is recommended that you choose an executor who lives near you, but it is not absolutely required. However, you should be aware that if you do choose an out-of-state executor, they may be asked to post a bond by the probate court, so as to increase the chances of their successful oversight of the estate.

A Wheaton Wills and Trusts Attorney Can Help

If you are confused or conflicted about who to choose as your executor, you are not alone. The best solution for most is to consult an experienced estate planning attorney. Contact one of our knowledgeable DuPage County estate planning lawyers to discuss your situation today. Call 630-665-2500 and schedule a confidential consultation at Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath LLC.

 

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2104&ChapterID=60&SeqStart=7200000&SeqEnd=9400000

http://ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/075500050K6-13.htm

The Role of an Executor

When drawing up a will, one of the most important decisions that need to be made is who will serve as the executor of the estate. The executor is the person who will be in charge of ensuring that your last wishes are carried out.

According to an article in The Huffington Post, there are several things that an executor is responsible for. The very first thing the executor needs to do is to file the will with the court in order to begin probating the estate.

The next step is to locate and take an inventory of all the estate's assets in order to determine the value of all the assets. An executor is also responsible for paying any bills the estate owes, such as funeral costs or taxes. He or she must also make notifications to any government agencies (such as Social Security or Veterans Administration), banks, credit card companies and the post office that the person has died.

Executors are responsible for locating and notifying all the heirs of the estate. They are responsible for notifying the public that the estate is being probated, usually via legal notices in the newspaper. And if someone comes forward to file a claim to the estate, it falls to the executor to protect the estate against those challenges.

The final duties of the executor are to file final income taxes for the estate and then to disburse all assets to the rightful heirs.

Typically, people name a trusted family member or a close friend as their executor.  Other options are naming a trust company or bank to oversee your estate. Whoever is named executor is entitled to a fee for the work they do for the estate. In Illinois, that fee can range anywhere between 1 and 5 percent of the estate's value.

There are many important decisions to make when drawing up a will. It's also important to have an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney working with you to make sure that all your final wishes will be correctly written out in your will.

The Technical Aspects of Probate

Taking care of your material possessions is important if you have loved ones that need to be protected. If you have drafted a will, then whoever you assign as your personal representative will be in charge of whether probate court is necessary in regards to your remaining estate.  If you have not designated one in a will, then the probate court may assign someone impartial to manage your estate.  This person will then be responsible for your earthly goods to make sure they are legally transferred to others.

The probate court acts to oversee your property after your death.  While all probate courts are different state to state, there are some processes which remain the same.  The probate court swears in your personal representative to manage your estate.  The court also is in charge of notifying your heirs, creditors and others that you are indeed, dead.  They also inventory the property of the estate to verify that the assets are still real and have not been dispersed.  The ultimate step of a probate court is to pay off debts, pay applicable taxes, and distribute the remaining estate to the heirs.

Overall the probate process is time-consuming and costly.  Probating a will can take a long time based upon the filing requirements and also if any one contests the will.  There are also multiple fees associated with probate such as, executor fees, lawyer's fees, and other court-related costs.  The only ways of successfully avoiding probate court with your will are to spell out your wishes in a trust, hold property and assets jointly, and give away your property before your death.  If you have the need to set up a living trust, have questions about your estate, or anything else, contact a qualified estate planning attorney in Kane County today.