Important Matters For Executors
As mentioned above, here is a list of just some of the important matters that an Executor may need to attend to:
- Locating the original Will, and any original Codicils that amend the Will, and then filing them with the appropriate Probate Court.
- Reviewing the Will, and all Codicils, to determine what your responsibilities are, and what discretion you may have, as Executor.
- Making a list of all assets that are titled in the sole name of the Decedent, or that may be payable to the Decedent’s estate (“solely-owned assets”).
- Determining the identity and contact information of all surviving beneficiaries named in the Will, and then informing them of what has happened.
- Determining the identity and contact information of all of the Decedent’s heirs, and then informing them of what has happened. The Decedent’s heirs are those persons who would inherit the Decedent’s solely-owned assets if the Decedent died without having a valid Will in effect. After a Probate Estate is opened, Illinois law requires not only that the beneficiaries listed in the Will be notified, but also that all heirs be notified. In some instances, the beneficiaries listed in the Will, and the heirs, are identical.
- Preparing and signing the necessary documents to open a Probate Estate in the appropriate Probate Court, and then having the Probate Estate opened so that you are officially appointed as Executor.
- Ensuring that the required notice to potential creditors is timely published.
- Obtaining from the IRS a new Taxpayer Identification Number for the Estate.
- Re-titling all of the solely-owned assets into your name, as Executor of the Estate.
- Making a list of all assets that are not solely-owned assets, and then determining what should be done with them.
- Reviewing how the solely-owned assets are currently invested, and then determining whether any securities should be retained or sold, and if sold, how the net sales proceeds should be reinvested—this may involve discussions with an investment advisor.
- Ensuring that any home or apartment is made secure, and that arrangements are made for the timely payment of (a) any amounts due under a mortgage or home equity loan, and (b) any other amounts that may be due, such as condominium assessments, homeowners insurance policy premiums, and real estate taxes.
- Reviewing the homeowners or other insurance policy for each parcel of real estate, and then discussing with the insurance company whether the insurance will remain in effect even though the home or apartment may now be vacant.
- Determining whether any home or apartment needs to be sold, and if so determining whether a real estate brokerage firm should be contacted to market the home or apartment—since you are managing the Estate for their benefit, this will involve discussions with the Estate beneficiaries.
- Preparing an initial Summary for the surviving beneficiaries named in the Will that
- Lists the solely-owned assets and their respective estimated values
- Describes in detail the provisions in the Will that have been made for each of the beneficiaries
- Estimates the costs that will be involved in settling the Estate, and
- Estimates how long the settlement of the Estate will take.
In our practice, we generally provide each of the beneficiaries listed in the Will with a Flow Chart that graphically summarizes all of the above items. In that way, the beneficiaries may retain the Flow Chart as a reference to refer to during the entire settlement of the Estate.
- Valuing all of the solely-owned assets, preparing an Inventory listing such assets and their respective date-of-death values, and then providing the beneficiaries listed in the Will with a copy of the Inventory.
- Ensuring that all prior Personal Income Tax returns of the relative or friend are up to date, and ensuring that the final Personal Income Tax returns of the relative or friend are timely filed, and that all proper Income Taxes are timely paid.
- Ensuring that the Fiduciary Income Tax returns for the Estate, which are now required to be filed each year during the settlement of the Estate, are timely filed, and that all proper Estate Income Taxes are timely paid—this may involve discussions with an accountant if the accountant will be preparing the Fiduciary Income Tax returns.
- Ensuring that any required Federal and Illinois Estate Tax returns are timely filed, and that any applicable Estate Taxes are timely paid.
- If the solely-owned assets include real estate in another jurisdiction, (a) ensuring that any Estate Tax return or Inheritance Tax return required by such other jurisdiction is timely filed, and that any applicable Estate Tax or Inheritance Tax is timely paid, and (b) taking the steps necessary to open any Ancillary, or Secondary, Probate Estate in such other jurisdiction that may be necessary in order to clear the title of such real estate.
- Providing the surviving beneficiaries named in the Will with a Final Accounting that summarizes all activities that have taken place since the date of death.
- Having the surviving beneficiaries named in the Will approve the Final Accounting, and also agree to reimburse you if any expenses first arise after the settlement of the Estate has been completed, and after all Estate assets have been distributed.
- Filing with the Probate Court all documents that are necessary to formally close the Estate and have you officially discharged as Executor.