Estate administration is the process of managing the estate of someone who has passed away. It involves collecting the assets in the estate, paying estate debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining estate property to the beneficiaries and heirs of the estate. In Illinois the Probate Court oversees estate administration. The process is managed by the executor of the estate or the estate administrator. The process of estate administration will take a minimum of 6 months and often lasts up to 12 months. Complications such as estate litigation can result in the process taking quite a bit longer. Assets in the estate cannot be distributed until all estate debts are paid and disputes settled. If you are involved in the administration of an estate and have concerns about the process, contact an experienced Chicago estate administration lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.Responsibilities of the Executor
- Take control of estate probate assets. The executor (or estate administrator) must identify the assets that are part of the probate estate and take control of them. When the court formally appoints the executor, she (or he) is given a Letter of Administration that gives her the legal authority to take control of estate assets and take other steps to manage the estate. Estate assets may include real estate such as the decedent’s residence and investment property. It also may include financial assets such as bank and investment accounts. Estate property will include personal property such as clothing, jewelry, and home furnishings, as well as collectibles such as artwork. As a Chicago estate administration lawyer will explain, not all property own by the decedent is probate property subject to the estate administration process. Some assets such as life insurance, trust property, and IRAs are not part of the probate estate and will pass to beneficiaries outside of the probate process. Once estate assets are identified, they must be appraised. Before the executor can go about the business of winding up the estate, she must know the value of the property in order to understand what is available to pay creditors, pay administration expenses, and to distribute to beneficiaries.
- Pay estate debts. Estate administration also involves paying debts owed by the estate. This must be completed before assets can be distributed. Thus, the amount of money and value of property available in an estate to distribute to beneficiaries depends on the value of the property after bills and expenses are paid. The executor is required to pay creditors as well as expenses related to estate administration out of estate assets. Furthermore, the executor must also pay taxes owed by the decedent or by the estate. If the estate is involved in litigation such as a will contest, expenses related to defending the will contest will be paid out of estate assets.
- Distributing estate assets. Once estate bills are paid, the executor must distribute the assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. Typically that involves handing over personal property to beneficiaries, are transferring title of assets to the appropriate beneficiary.
- Closing the estate. After the assets have been distributed and the executor submits an accounting to the probate court, the executor’s estate administration job is done and the court will officially close the estate.
Disputes can develop at any time during the estate administration problems. Common problems involve concerns related to the validity of a will, questions about whether the executor or other fiduciaries have violated their fiduciary responsibilities, and objections to the estate accounting or executor’s fees. Before assets can be distributed, these disputes must be resolved.
In cases where there is no will, there may be issues related to heirs. As an experienced estate administration attorney in Chicago will explain, in the absence of a will, assets are distributed to the decedent’s legal heirs based on the rules of intestate succession. Legal heirs are the surviving spouse and children. In the absence of either a surviving spouse or children, other blood relatives are entitled to receive the estate. However, if there are problems identifying a blood relative, an heirship hearing may be required to confirm whether someone claiming to be an heir is indeed entitled to the estate.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
Estate administration is sometimes routine, but can also become quite complicated depending on the size of the estate and any unexpected events that develop in the process such as a will contest, objection to the estate accounting, or some other type of estate litigation. An experienced estate administration attorney serving Chicago will help you complete the process as quickly as possible under the circumstances. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has extensive estate planning experience and frequently represents clients before the Illinois Probate Court. Contact us at 855-454-5529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve individuals throughout Chicago.