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Lombard estate planning attorneysPreparing a will is, for many people, the cornerstone of estate planning. For some, a will can be enough to cover much of their estate, while others may require additional planning instruments to meet their needs when they are gone. Regardless of the size of your estate, choosing an individual to oversee the execution of your will is one of the most important determinations that you will have to make during the estate planning process. A person or entity tasked with such responsibility is called an executor in Illinois—sometimes known as a personal representative in other states—and should be worthy of the trust that you have placed in him or her to protect your assets and property.

Duties of the Executor

An executor may be a financial institution, trust company, or other entity, but in most situations, it is an individual person, often a friend or family member. Upon your death, your executor will be responsible for:

  • Locating and compiling your assets, if you have not already done so;
  • Notifying creditors, and satisfying outstanding debts or other obligations with funds from your estate;
  • Manage all assets during the process of probate;
  • Distribute property to surviving spouse and dependents, as required by law; and
  • Distribute remaining property to beneficiaries named in the will, or as required by law.

If your estate is valued at less than $100,000, Illinois law permits your executor to close the estate without court involvement. Estates that exceed a value of $100,000 must be handled through probate court unless other estate planning steps have been taken to avoid the probate process legally.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyOne of the most important estate planning decisions you will make is choosing the executor of your estate. In most cases, the executor of an estate is usually a close relative or friend, but it does not have to be. The job of an executor includes managing and protecting the property of the decedent. The executor of your estate will be responsible for making sure that your final wishes are fulfilled and that your property is maintained until disbursement. He or she will also be responsible for paying estate debts and any outstanding tax obligations.

The person you select as executor of your estate has a tremendous responsibility. It is imperative that you choose someone who is capable of managing your estate effectively. Mismanagement of estate assets can result in losses to your beneficiaries as well as family arguments.

Executor Duties and Responsibilities

One of the first things an executor should do following the death of the estate’s original owner is to obtain at least several official copies of the state-issued death certificate. He or she will need these in order to fulfill executor duties. The executor must use these to access financial accounts and cancel government checks from programs like Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). A copy of the death certificate must also be included with the estate’s final federal tax return. It might also be the executor’s responsibility to handle the funeral and burial financial arrangements if arrangements were not already made.  

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Lombard estate planning lawyersOne of the most important decisions in the estate planning process is who will be named as executor of the estate. The executor is the person who is responsible for overseeing and protecting the assets of the deceased person. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the wishes of the decedent are carried out, as well as maintaining any property of the estate until disbursement, settling the debts of the estate, and paying any taxes owed. It is critical for the person who is appointed executor to understand how to manage the estate. If they mismanage estate assets that add up to a loss to the beneficiaries of the estate, they can be held liable for those losses.

Short-Term Responsibilities

Unless arrangements have been made before the person’s death, it is typically the executor’s responsibility to handle the financial arrangements for the deceased’s funeral and burial expenses. The funeral parlor also provides copies of the death certificate to the executor. It is important to obtain several copies of the death certificate since a copy will be necessary in order to access financial accounts and canceling government benefit checks (i.e. Social Security). A copy is also required to be filed with the final federal tax return of the estate.

Probate and Beyond

It is also the executor’s responsibility to file the deceased person’s will for probate. There can be no division of the estate until a probate judge gives their approval. Exceptions to this rule is if all the assets had been transferred to a living trust before the person died. Those assets can be disbursed to the designated beneficiaries without having to go through the probate process.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersOne of the most important steps of creating a last will and testament is choosing the personal representative—or executor—who will oversee and manage your estate after you pass away. This individual will have several important responsibilities, so it is important that you choose someone who is competent and able to handle the job. There is no perfect way to choose the right executor, but there are some guidelines you should keep in mind as you create your estate plan.  

Responsibilities of the Executor

The legal representative named as the executor of a will has several duties. Firstly, he or she must estimate the value of the deceased person’s (testator’s) estate. A list of property and assets including bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate property, fine art or expensive jewelry, stocks and bonds, and other items must be drafted and assessed during probate. Additionally, the executor must pay the deceased person’s taxes and debt as well as file a personal income tax return on their behalf. He or she will also have to pay estate taxes and distribute the testator’s remaining property to beneficiaries as per the directions stated in the will.

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Posted on in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning lawyerWhen someone asks you to be the executor of their last will and testament, you may feel both honored and also overwhelmed. What exactly does an executor do? Who can be an executor? Being an executor of someone’s will is a huge responsibility, but with some research and help, most are able to take on the challenge.

An Important Role

The overall job of an executor is to make sure a person's last wishes are granted with regards to the disposition of their property and possessions. He or she is responsible for paying the deceased's debts and creditors, and distributing any remaining money or property according to the deceased’s wishes. The law does not require an executor to be a lawyer or financial expert, however, it does require than an executor fulfill their duties with honesty and diligence. This responsibility is called "fiduciary duty," which means that the executor must act in good faith and in the best interests of the deceased person’s estate.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerEstate planning in Illinois or any other jurisdiction is more than simply determining what legal documents are most appropriate to protect the value of your assets after death and achieve the goals and desires you have for the disposition of your property. Equally as important as choosing the right estate planning documents is choosing the right person to handle your affairs and exercise the powers those estate planning documents provide.

The Dangers of Selecting the Wrong Individual

Regardless of whether you named an individual as executor and administrator of your will, as a trustee overseeing your trust, or as your power of attorney, your estate planning documents give the individual significant powers. In the wrong hands, this person could potentially:

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Lombard estate planning lawyersEstate 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 an 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 a heavy one, and, as such, 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 and he or she may be older and/or ill when the time comes for them to assume the role. Who you choose must be able to fulfill all of the duties of the executor including:

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