Probate is the legal process that typically follows the death of an individual. If the decedent left behind a valid Last Will and Testament the individual named as the Executor in the Will is who will oversee the probate of the estate. For a number of reasons it is always wise to discuss your plans with your intended Executor before making a final decision. Sometimes, however, people fail to heed this advice. Imagine finding out that you were named as the Executor of your Grandmother’s estate after her death. What should you do? Unless you have served as an Executor before you likely have no idea where to start. Because every estate is different it is always best to consult with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney as soon as you are notified of the appointment; however, there are some common steps that most Executors need to follow in the days immediately after a death, including:
- Identify and secure assets. Before any estate assets can be transferred to the intended beneficiary, most must go through probate. The Executor needs to identify, locate, and secure all of the estate assets to preserve them for those beneficiaries. This may be as simple as locking up a house or as complicated as piecing together an investment portfolio.
- Consult with an attorney. Although the Executor of an estate is officially responsible for overseeing the probate process, most retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to provide advice and guidance.
- Open probate. Most estates must go through formal probate. To begin the probate process the correct documents must be prepared and filed with the appropriate court along with the original Will left behind by the decedent.
- Notify creditors. Once probate has begun, the first step you need to take is to notify creditors that the estate is being probated so that they can files claims against the estate if they are owed something.
Keep in mind that although you were appointed to be the Executor, you are not legally bound to accept the appointment. You can inform the court that you unable or unwilling to serve as the Executor. The court will then turn to a successor Executor named in the Will or the court will have to appoint a Personal Representative to fulfill the duties of an Executor.
If you have additional questions or concerns about the role of Executor, or your Illinois estate plan in general, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash, Nash, Bean & Ford, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.
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