Probate and Personal Representative

Probate is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate (assets) of a deceased person by resolving claims, if any, and distributing the deceased person’s property. It is a court procedure where a judge appoints a personal representative. A personal representative is the person or entity who manages the decedent’s estate. Executors and administrators are types of personal representatives.

If the decedent left a Will (referred to as dying “testate”), the person who administers the estate is called an executor. If the decedent left no Will (referred to as dying “intestate”), the person is called an administrator.

Who Can Serve as a Personal Representative?

An executor is nominated by the decedent in his or her Will. An administrator is nominated, generally, by the decedent’s family. One or more individuals or a bank or trust company, or a combination may be named. An executor or administrator must be a resident of the United States of America, but need not be a resident of Illinois. Each executor or administrator must be approved and appointed by the court.

Responsibilities of a Personal Representative

The duties and responsibilities of a personal representative, either an executor or administrator, are defined primarily by the Illinois Probate Act and the Internal Revenue Code. Here are some highlights:

Estate Opening

According to Illinois Law, if the decedent left a Will it is the responsibility of the person in possession of the Will to file it with the circuit court clerk within 30 days after the decedent’s death. It is then the responsibility of the person nominated as executor to ask the court to probate the Will. A Will need not be probated in every instance. In some cases a Small Estate Affidavit may be used instead of probate to transfer assets from the decedent’s estate to heirs and or legatees. We can advise you as to whether is document can be used.

Court Duties

  • Publish or provide required legal notices.
  • Prepare an inventory listing real estate and both tangible and intangible personal property.
  • Approve or contest claims filed against the estate.
  • Petition the court as necessary in the management of the estate’s assets.
  • File periodic and final accountings reporting receipts, disbursements and distribution.
  • Distribute the decedent’s estate according to the Will, or when no Will exists according to Illinois Law on intestate distribution.

Lawyer Services

Joseph A. La Zara & Associates Attorneys, Joseph La Zara and Shannon Heilman concentrate in probate law and have the legal experience to provide you with easy to understand legal advice at reasonable fees.