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Illinois Probate Act 755 ILCS 5/6-14: Power of Executor Before Issuance of Letters

Even though a decedent may name someone in his (or her) will to serve as executor of his estate, the named individual does not have legal authority to act as executor until the Illinois Probate Court has formally appointed him and issued him letters testamentary. Letters are a legal document that serves as proof that the person named in the letters has the authority to serve as the representative of the estate. With letters, the executor can open bank accounts, sell estate assets, settle claims against the estate, and perform other tasks, as most business would require that the executor provide a copy of the letters. However, before a Probate Court in Chicago will issue letters, the named executor must file a petition. Meanwhile, there may be tasks that must be performed related to the estate. If you have questions related to the administration of a loved one’s estate, including the rules in section 6-14 of the Illinois Probate Act, Power of executor before issuance of letters, contact a skilled Chicago probate attorney at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.

How to Petition for Letters Testamentary

Illinois law requires that an executor named in a will file a petition with the appropriate Chicago Probate Court, requesting letters. The court will review the petition and make sure the petition is qualified before granting it. Those who have standing have the right to file an objection. If the Probate Court judge finds that the objections are baseless, the judge will issue letters. Otherwise, the court will decline to issue letters and instead issue them to another petitioner who is qualified.

Power of Executor Before Issuance of Letters

Even before the Chicago Probate Court issues letters to the executor, the executor has the authority to take a limited number of actions on behalf of the decedent and on behalf of the estate. These actions include:

  • Donating the decedent’s organs. The executor has the authority to carry out the instructions of the decedent relate to tissue and organ donations.
  • Burying the decedent. The executor has the authority to carry out the instructions of the decedent relate to burial.
  • Paying funeral costs. The executor has the power to pay for the costs associated with the funeral of the decedent out of estate assets.
  • Caring for activities necessary for preserving the estate. For example, the executor should secure the estate to prevent damage or loss of estate property. Failure to do could result in liability on the part of the executor.

If it turns out that the will naming the executor is not admitted to probate, the executor is not liable as an executor.

If you have questions as to which actions by the executor are permissible prior to the issuance of letters, contact an experienced probate attorney in Chicago.

Duties of an Executor

Once the executor has been formally appointed and letter issued, his (or her) job includes all activities necessary to finalize the decedent’s affairs and distribute assets to beneficiaries. The major activities include:

  • Identifying and securing all property in the estate, inventorying it and managing it. This may including continuing to take steps to secure the estate including making sure real estate is locked and insured, monitoring and managing investments, and safeguarding other assets.
  • Paying estate bills, including any debts owed by the decedent. Such bills must be paid from estate assets. The executor has a duty to pay valid, timely filed claims.
  • Distribution of assets. The executor must distribute assets to the beneficiaries based on the terms of the will.

While estate administrations can be generalized into 3 basic steps, estate administration can often be quite complicated. For example, disputes may arise involving beneficiaries, heirs, and fiduciaries, leading to a delay in the process and expense to the estate. There may not be sufficient assets in the estate to pay all creditors or to pay all beneficiaries according to the terms of the will. There may be assets that are difficult to manage. If you have questions or concerns related to the administration of an estate, contact an experienced Chicago probate attorney.

Related Statutory Provisions
  1. Petition to admit will or to issue letters : Illinois Probate Act, 755 ILCS 5/6-2
  2. Issuance of letters testamentary : Illinois Probate Act, 755 ILCS 5/6-8
  3. Who may act as executor: Illinois Probate Act, 755 ILCS 5/6-13
Illinois Probate Act, Section 6-14- Power of Executor Before Issuance of Letters

Before issuance of letters to an executor his power extends to the carrying out of any gift of the decedent's body or any part thereof, to the burial of the decedent, the payment of necessary funeral charges and the preservation of the estate; but if the will is not admitted to probate, the executor is not liable as an executor of his own wrong, except for his refusal to deliver the estate to the person authorized by law to receive it or for waste or misapplication of the estate.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have questions about the authority of an executor, it is important that you contact a probate attorney serving Chicago who has experience. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have extensive experience working closely with executors, estate administrators, beneficiaries, and heirs on a wide range of estate matters, including matters related to the appointment of executors. If you have concerns related to the administration of an estate including the requirements of Illinois Probate Act section 6-14- Power of executor before issuance of letters, or any other estate or trust matter, contact us attorneys at 855-454-5529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve clients throughout Chicago.

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