Howard & Hardyman LLP

Defining the role of an executor

Illinois residents who are preparing their final will and testament should become acquainted with the role of an executor. An executor will be the person in charge of carrying out the will once the testor passes away. The duties of an executor are many and varied, and whoever is picked for the job should be trustworthy and able to carry out the duties of the position.

According to Illinois law, an executor does not need to be a financial or legal professional. The only requirements under Illinois law are that the executor be at least eighteen years old, is a United States resident, is of sound mind, has not been convicted of a felony, and is not disabled. Thus it is up to the person planning a will to evaluate the skills of an executor candidate to determine if that candidate is qualified.

Findlaw points out that the exact duties of an executor depend on the stipulations of the will. Generally, executors will be responsible for wrapping up the financial obligations of the decedent, which involves contacting the decedent’s creditors and asking them how they wish to handle outstanding payments. Once the decedent’s debts are settled, the executor is free to begin distributing the assets to the designated heirs.

To begin distributing the estate’s assets, an executor will have to make contact with all the heirs designated by the will. Also, the executor must keep the remaining assets that have not been used to settle debts safe so they can be distributed later on. An executor may have to set up a bank account for the estate, take inventory of the assets, and establish security measures so the assets will not be stolen or lost.

In addition to competence, an executor should be trustworthy and committed to the decedent’s wishes. Unfortunately, some executors turn out to be bad actors. They may rob the estate of its assets, either stealing them outright or using the money to buy other possessions. Malicious executors might also be partial to one of the heirs and give the heir an unfair share of the assets.

Making sure an executor is suited to the job will help ensure that the estate is passed on to the heirs as intended. Additionally, choosing an ethical executor decreases the chance that one or more of the heirs will have to litigate malicious actions by an executor in court. In some cases, choosing an executor who is not part of the family may be the best course to ensure impartiality.

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  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • WCBA | Winnebago County | Bar Association | Established 1996
  • United States Court Of Appeals | Seventh Circuit
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