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. 

What to Do When an Executor Fails to Carry Out the Will

carry out the willAn executor’s job is to carry out the will, meaning he or she will execute the will and handle the estate of the deceased by carrying out their wishes. This can include paying debts and taxes and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries in accordance to the instructions of the will. It is the responsibility of the of the executor to do these things in a timely manner, and act in the best interest of the beneficiaries.

But what happens if the executor isn’t doing their job? Can they be removed from their position? There are many things you should do if you find that the executor isn’t doing their job properly.

Know the Timeline to Settle an Estate

When a loved one passes away, you probably start to wonder how long it takes between the time the will is read and when you will get your inheritance. It depends on how complex the estate is, and the process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. The executor can only disperse the assets of the estate after the property is evaluated and all the debts and taxes have been paid. The executor can be held personally liable if the inheritances are paid first and there isn’t any money left to cover debts and taxes.

Determine If You Have a Case

You should first try talking to the executor about your concerns. If that doesn’t work, you may have to take legal action.

To have an executor removed from an estate you need to be able to show that they are not living up to their responsibilities of their job or that they are doing something that isn’t legal. The court may remove an executor for the following reasons:

  • They are no longer eligible because they have been convicted of a felony after being named executor
  • They are no longer suitable because they have a conflict of interest
  • They have failed to carry out the wishes of the deceased or they haven’t done anything at all
  • They mismanage the estate by stealing from the estate or wasting assets

The executor must commit a serious infraction for the court to act. Taking a long time to settle the estate is not considered a serious infraction on its own. It must be in addition to one of the examples above. In most cases, you must wait a little longer to get your inheritance.

Seeking Legal Recourse

If you believe that the executor is not living up to their duties, you have two legal options: petition the court or file a civil lawsuit.

Beneficiaries can petition the court to have the executor removed from their positon if they can prove they should be removed for one of the reasons listed above. The court will have a hearing where the parties involved can tell their side of the story. Afterwards, the court can remove the executor and appoint another one if they find just cause.

Your other option is to file a civil lawsuit against the executor if you can prove that you have suffered due to their actions, or lack of actions. For instance, this would be an option if the executor has stolen money or failed to protect the assets of the estate. There is always a chance you will be able to settle before ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

No matter where you are in the process of settling an estate, you need to speak to a qualified estate planning attorney if you have any concerns at all. At Sherer Law Offices, our attorneys will advise you and guide you as to what to do if you find yourself in this difficult situation.

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