What Does an Executor Actually Do?

executorWhen someone has a will drawn up and notarized, detailing what will happen to all their property after their death, they will usually specify in the document who will act as the executor of the will. If the document does not specify an executor, the court will appoint one.

But what does it even mean to be the executor of someone’s will? What, exactly, does that job entail?

Essentially, the executor’s job is to make sure the will is carried out as it is written. The assumption is that the will represents the intentions of the deceased at the time of their death – or at least the last time they were sufficiently mentally fit to decide what should happen to their possessions at the time of their death. The executor is tasked with fulfilling those wishes.

File the Will

The first thing the executor needs to do is file the will in the probate court of the county where the deceased lived. If they did not live in Illinois, then the will must be filed in the probate court of the county in which the deceased’s real property (such as land, a house, condo, etc.) is located. If they did not have any real property, then it needs to be filed in the county where most of the deceased’s personal property is located.  Once the will has been filed, the probate court grants the executor the powers of executor of the will, which allows them to fulfill the rest of their responsibilities.

Notifications

The executor is also in charge of notifying the heirs and legatees of the will that the document has been filed with the probate court – the legatees (also known as beneficiaries) are those listed in the will to receive something, while the heirs are those who would inherit the estate in the absence of a will.

Conduct Inventory

Under the Illinois Probate Code, an executor has 60 days from the time they become executor to conduct an inventory of the estate. The inventory must list all the real estate, personal property, and money owned by the estate.

Defend the Will

Once the heirs and beneficiaries have been notified that a will has been filed, they have 6 months from the time the will has been filed to challenge the validity of that will.  If the court finds the will invalid, the executor would be the one to file an appeal on that decision, if they decide to do so.

Manage the Estate

Before the will can be executed (and/or while it is being contested) there may still be bills that need to be paid on behalf of the estate. For example, if any real estate is included in the will, property taxes and/or mortgage payments may need to be made before the property is transferred to the ownership of the heir or legatee. The executor will be responsible for using funds and assets from the estate to make such payments, which is why it is of the utmost importance to assign an executor who can be trusted with this responsibility.  The executor has a fiduciary duty to the estate and the heirs and legatees to maintain the estate assets until such time as they can be distributed in accordance with the decedent’s wishes.

If you haven’t yet had a will drawn up for your estate – or you want to revise an existing will – you need a law firm you can trust. We can help you draft an air-tight will to ensure all your property and assets will go where you want them to go.  If you have been named the executor of an estate, we can also help you fulfill your duties in a timely, cost-efficient manner.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

The Basics of Renting from a Landlord’s Perspective

rentingRenting out or subleasing a space can be a great way to make a little extra cash, but it can also be a hassle. You’re the one who is ultimately responsible for the space, and yet you’re essentially inviting a stranger to live there for a specified (or sometimes unspecified) amount of time. It’s tricky, so we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you become the best landlord ever.

Set Expectations

Make it clear in the listing how much rent will be as well as what your system is for utilities, deposits, and any application fees you might decide to charge. Being clear and upfront about what you expect from potential renters will make the rest of the process go that much more smoothly.

Once you have someone who wants to rent and to whom you feel comfortable renting the space, make sure your contract lays out all the details. Aside from rent and utilities, you’ll want to include things like:

  • How long the lease will last and what are the conditions and/or consequences for either one of you cancelling the lease;
  • Whether they’re allowed to sublet and under what terms;
  • Whether they’re allowed roommates; if so, how many; and under what terms;
  • If and under what terms you may raise the rent;
  • When rent is due, if there’s a grace period, and if so for how long; and
  • Consequences for failing to pay rent/utilities on time.

Document Everything

Starting before your tenant even moves in, you should get in the habit of documenting everything. Take notes and pictures of the space before they move in so you can tell if they’ve done any damage to it by the time they leave, have an ironclad lease agreement, and document all your conversations. Every email conversation with your tenant should have its own file and all text messages should be saved. You can record phone conversations and even in-person conversations if you feel the need (and you’re not violating any laws). Otherwise you can just take notes of each conversation you have with your tenant and make sure to keep those notes together and in a place where you won’t lose them.

Communication Is Key

Finally, the key to any successful relationship is communication. If you start having concerns after your tenant moves in, don’t hesitate to talk to them about it right away. Dealing with it sooner rather than later makes it easier to stop the problem before it becomes an issue. When addressing any potential problems with your tenant, always approach them calmly and respectfully, explain the issue, and ask them to stop. If they can’t for some reason, try to work with them on a way to make the issue less problematic for everyone involved.

There is no fool-proof way for avoiding problem tenants, but by using the tips we’ve provided here, you can help stop many of the common renter issues before they start. If a problem does arise, dealing with it immediately and in a calm, respectful manner can also help your relationship with your tenant and prevent a situation going from bad to worse.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Understanding the Basics of Real Estate Evictions

real estate evictionsMoney and personal property are both sources of contention in all sorts of relationships, so it’s no wonder why it can sometimes be difficult to find a landlord/tenant relationship that isn’t fraught with tension. It can be easy for each party to get frustrated with the other, but no matter how strong the temptation for retaliation might be, it’s important to remember that there are laws in place for real estate evictions to protect everyone involved.

Landlord Disclosures

Landlords are required by Illinois law to disclose specific information to tenants, such as how utilities will be billed if tenants are made to pay a portion of a master metered utility for the building. One common example is the water meter. This information would usually be included in the lease or rental agreement.

Security Deposit Restrictions

Most states don’t have laws that limit the amount landlords can charge for security deposits, but there is a limit on how long after the tenant moves out the landlord can wait before returning the security deposit. In some states, the limit might be 30-45 days after the tenant has vacated the premises. The range is to account for delays landlords might experience if they include an itemized statement and receipts, or if the tenant disputes any deductions made from the security deposit.

Tenants can take their landlord to small claims court for failure to return a security deposit. The law allows tenants to sue for up to $10,000. So, if you’re a tenant looking to sue for a missing security deposit, or a landlord looking to defend yourself against a suit for a missing security deposit, talk to an experienced real estate attorney in your area.

Rent

There are several state laws regulating rent, including the amount of notice landlords must provide their tenants before raising the rent, and how many days a tenant must be given to pay rent or move before the landlord can file for eviction.

Eviction

Despite the Hollywood image of landlords dumping tenants’ belongings on the side of the street, the law is very specific about how and when landlords can evict their tenants. First, a landlord must be able to prove that the tenant failed to abide by one of the terms of the rental agreement. Then the landlord must give the tenant a specified time period to move out before they can file for eviction. These laws vary from State to State, so it is important to consult an attorney if you need help with this issue.

Personal Property

The law lays out specific procedures landlords must follow when renters leave property behind after moving out. If you’re a landlord with this problem, be sure to check all the relevant state and local laws for your area before touching your tenant’s personal property.

Tenant Protections

Federal and state rental laws are also careful to protect the rights of tenants. In addition to fair housing laws that prohibit discrimination, special protections are usually granted to victims of domestic violence. The law also forbids landlords from retaliating against a tenant for exercising any right granted them under the law, for example, complaining about unsafe living conditions.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, as well as all types of family law for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Can My Spouse Lease Out Our Rental Property Without My Consent During a Divorce?

rental property during divorceThe answer to this question, simply put, is no. When it comes to owning property, a married couple has to abide by the same rules that two business partners would, which means you both have to get the other person’s permission to take any action involving your property.

Basic Facts

Under Illinois law, all property acquired during the marriage, is considered marital property, regardless of how the property is titled. For most couples, when they buy property, they sign documents involving ownership and payment agreements. But even if you aren’t on the title to property, the house is presumed to be marital property if purchased at any point after the date of marriage, with some exceptions. Also, if you and your spouse took out a loan to pay for the property, you would have signed a document stating that you are both responsible for the monthly loan payment. Again, the same rules apply to debts in a marriage as property: if the mortgage was signed after the date of marriage, it is a marital debt even if only one spouse is on the loan itself.

Because a house that was acquired after the marriage is marital, you and your soon-to-be ex must have each other’s permission to do conduct any sort of transaction regarding the property, particularly if you are going through a divorce. This is always the case unless the deed states that a certain percentage of ownership has been assigned to each spouse, or whether your spouse’s ownership percentage specifically allows them to act on their percentage without your permission.

Haven’t spoken to your spouse in a while? If you are estranged with your spouse, they must still get your permission to lease out the property. The lease will be null and void without your signature.

What Can You Do?

If you find out your soon-to-be-ex has rented the property without your permission, there are few things you need to look into. First, you should contact your mortgage lender to see if renting out the property is even an option. Some mortgage lenders to not allow subletting your property while you are paying your mortgage, and they will be able to take legal action to stop it. If you rent out your property without the permission of the mortgage lender, they can assess fees against you and even repossess the property. Finally, if your ex has been collecting rent, you can request half of the money collected, and you need to take legal action to get your portion, at minimum within the divorce proceeding.

If you decide to agree with renting out the property, you need to put in writing how the rent money will be divided in order to avoid lawsuits in the future. If you no longer wish to have any involvement in the property, you can file a quick claim deed in your county courthouse to have ownership rights transferred over. However, it is advisable to first ensure that your spouse removes you from any loans associated with the property before you relinquish your legal interest. Once you’re divorced and legally removed from the deed and any mortgages, you can be free of any further liability with the property.

Important Things to Know

Each state has its own laws governing how property is handled during a divorce. Illinois law requires that the division be equitable and fair, but note that this does not always mean “50-50” as many assume. As discussed above, it also depends on if the property is marital property or separate property. Just because property was acquired before the marriage does not always mean it stays separate property either, as sometimes marital property gets mixed together with separate property, causing a conversion to marital property. . If you are unsure about your property rights during a divorce, you need to seek the advice of a qualified divorce attorney to protect your rights.

Understanding property laws, marital law, and division of property during a divorce is not an easy task. You need the advice of a qualified attorney who practices in real estate law and divorce law. At Sherer Law Offices, our attorneys will advise you through the entire process so that you can get through this difficult time.
CONTACT US TODAY!

5 Things to Remember if You Intend on Buying Rental Property

buying rental propertyBuying rental property can be a great way to build your wealth. There a very few differences between buying your own home and buying rental property. Here are a few things you need to know before you begin investing in real estate.

Do Your Homework

This part can be difficult because you might not know what questions to ask. Some of the questions you might want to ask include:

  1. What type of investment property are you interested in?
  2. How much property can you afford to buy?
  3. What neighborhood would you like to invest in?
  4. What is the average rental price for property in that area?
  5. What type of return on your investment are you looking for?

To answer these questions, you need to consult with some experts. Contact your banker or even a real estate attorney for advice and answers to your questions.

Make Your Plan

It is recommended that you put your plan down on paper to make it easier to refer back to when necessary. This is where you will decide how much house you can afford to buy. Set your price and stick to your goal. You don’t want to get distracted by a house that is way over your budget. By putting down your plan you will be able to stay true to your goals.

Pre-Arrange Financing

The most common mistake that home buyers make is not having arranged their financing ahead of time. If you go out searching for a home without having financing already in place, you run the risk of missing out on the perfect property. Having financing in place will also help you stay true to your goals, and your budget, by having a set amount to spend already in place. Be sure to talk to your banker about your spending limit before you go out looking for your rental property.

Find Your Property and Make an Offer

There are a lot of great ways to find a property to invest in. You can look on real estate sites such as Realtor.com or Zillow.com. You can even work with a real estate agent to find the property that is perfect for you. Typically, a real estate agent is paid by the seller when you buy a home. So for you, using your own “buyer’s real agent” is at no cost to you personally. (Note: This applies more to a home already listed by an agent, as a seller for a home “by owner” may be less negotiable on price if they agreed to pay your buyer’s agent commission.) A word of advice as well is that it might be helpful to find an agent that specializes in working with investors. They will be more aware of what makes a good rental property, and they will be able to help you stick to your goals by only showing you property that is in your price range.

Once you have found a property you would like to buy, the next step would be to make an offer. The real estate agent will complete the paperwork and submit the offer to the seller. There will most likely be some negotiation. Keep your purchase amount in mind and be willing to walk away if things don’t go your way. If you can’t agree on a price that is suitable for you, then it’s time to look elsewhere. Not having a deal is better than being stuck with a bad deal.

If you are successful with your offer, there are a few things you need to remember regarding the nuts and bolts of the purchase agreement. Some of these include the closing date deadlines, inspection contingencies and deadlines for requests to make repairs, the seller’s financial concessions, and more. All of these things are part of your offer and should be spelled out clearly in any well-written contract. Do your due diligence and do what you have to do according to your agreement with the seller. Also, it is always recommended that you hire an inspector to inspect the property. If something is found, you may need to go back and re-negotiate with the seller on who will conduct the repairs and/or whether there will be a reduction of sale price in lieu of repairs. This is an extremely important step, as you don’t want to get stuck with a property that eats into your expected profits due to costly maintenance issues.

You Are Now a Landlord

The deal has been done and now you are a landlord! Now it is time to learn how to rent out your property, how to be a successful landlord, and how to screen your prospective tenants. Some helpful links include:

There are so many things for you to consider when investing in a rental property. The smartest thing you can to is contact an experienced real estate attorney at Sherer Law Offices. We can walk you through the steps you need to make the best investment possible. We also will review real estate contracts and help steer you in the right direction for buying your rental property.

CONTACT US TODAY!