When making an estate plan, there are a lot of difficult decisions to make. Having an experienced attorney by your side can make all the difference. They can help you set up trusts, construct a will, and even name an executor of your estate. An executor of estate is a legally appointed person or institution that is responsible for managing and distributing assets after your death. As you can probably guess, this is an incredibly important decision to make when putting your affairs in order. How can you begin to make this decision? First, you need to understand who can be the executor. 

A gavel, scales and books sit in front of a replica of an estate representing the legal process for appointing an executor of estate.

What Does An Executor of Estate Do?

When considering who you’d like to be the executor of your estate, you need to understand what they’ll be in charge of. An executor has several responsibilities. The most commonly known duty is distributing assets laid out in the will. With the help of an attorney, you will list out all of your assets, ranging from cars and real estate to personal effects and sentimental items. This is where you will name beneficiaries and who will receive what. An executor is responsible for distributing your assets in the way you laid out in the will, to the best of their abilities. While your final wishes are not always followed due to the results of probate and a judge’s ruling, if the will is valid and the court approves it, the assets can be delivered as you specified. For this reason, you want an executor whom you can trust with your final wishes. 

An executor is also responsible for paying bills and debts owed by the estate. After a person dies, if there are outstanding debts, it is the responsibility of the estate to pay these debts. Debt collectors have 6 months from notice of death to come forward and make a claim. An executor must allocate funds from the estate to pay off these debts. In the case that there is not enough funds in the estate to pay off all the debts, they often will go unpaid. 

An executor has some other duties such as…

  • Upkeep of property and real estate
  • Paying taxes on an estate
  • Maintaining court appearances and hearings
  • Contacting beneficiaries and heirs of an estate

This is not an exhaustive list, however it provides a jumping off point for you to understand whom you entrust this duty to will be responsible for. 

Who Can Be The Executor of a Will?

In Illinois law, there are certain guidelines that dictate who can be the executor of a will and who cannot. While it is typical for a person to name an individual as an executor, in some cases a bank, trust company or other institution can be named as the executor. The court must approve your selection, and certain states have different laws as to whether a company can serve or not. If you have questions about whether a bank or other institution can serve for your estate, contact a lawyer. 

An attorney sits in front of paperwork with a client as they name an executor of estate in their will.

If you appoint an individual, the person must be of sound mind and judgement. If a judge rules that a person is unfit or if the person is incapacitiated by a court of law, they are unable to serve as your executor. A judge will also disapprove your choice if that individual is a felon

An executor cannot be a minor. If the person is under 18 years old, the state of Illinois will not allow them to be your executor of estate. 

The person must be a US citizen. Unfortunately, the state of Illinois does not allow foreign citizens to serve as executor. There are also stipulations to appointing a US citizen in regards to out-of-state appointees. A court may set up additional requirements on an out-of-state executor such as posting bond. It’s also just a good rule of thumb to appoint someone who lives close to you. They will have to maintain your property and handle debts and work with beneficiaries and the local courts. If they live far away, it may be difficult for them to fulfill their duties due to travel times and expenses. 

In Illinois, they also disapprove of certain “disabled” executors.  Disabilities that prevent individuals from being an executor include addiction to gambling, alcohol and drugs and any other addiction that prevents said individual from providing for their family. Mental and physical incapacities that prevent an individual from maintaining their personal life and affairs is also prohibited. 
If you have other questions regarding who can be named as the executor of your estate, get in touch with Schottler Law. They are a Chicago based Estate Planning firm that have years of experience helping clients put their affairs in order. You can set up a free 30 minute consultation here.

Mark Schottler is a Chicagoland attorney with over 20 years of experience working both in probate and estate planning law and in real estate law. He puts his extensive knowledge on these subjects into easily consumable articles that will help and advise the public. Mark Schottler has a passion for probate and uses this to create relevant articles that are informative and entertaining. *While these posts may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.