Finding a trustworthy individual to act as an executor is often the last thing on many peoples mind during the estate planning process. In most situations individuals are more concerned with identifying their assets and avoiding probate fees than choosing an executor. Unfortunately, choosing the wrong executor can cause serious problems for your heirs and family members.
An executor is a person that ultimately handles the dispersal bequests left in a last will and testament. This person will be responsible for carrying out your final wishes on earth and ensuring that your family gets everything that you intended them to have. In some states leaving bequests through alternative methods downplays the role of the executor but in Illinois the only way to leave large property is with a will.
In many states it is possible to add the intended heir as a joint owner on property. However, the state of Illinois does not currently have this option available. The only way to leave property that requires a title or deed is to create a valid will and name a trustworthy executor.
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Executors in the state of Illinois do not work for free. The cost associated with a profession executor can be high but it is a case of getting what you pay for. Expect to spend between two and five per cent of the total estates net worth to the executor. An executor that is experienced will be well versed in the proper laws and appropriate procedures for distributing property and funds to beneficiaries.
Being an executor can be an extremely difficult job, especially initially. An executor can expect to spend three years settling the estate with most of this time being spent making sure all fees and taxes are paid. In Illinois, and most other states, the executor can be held directly responsible for failing to pay any death taxes or debts against the estate.
Many people are tempted to have a family member act as the executor of the will. This is a free option and is a way to ensure that the family does not have to spend any of the estate. The problem with this is that most average individuals are not prepared to take on the huge role associated with being the executor of an estate and some will even attempt to take advantage of their position.
It is common for family members who are appointed as executor of a will to look after their own best interests first. This includes claiming any un-designated property or seeing that they get their bequests first. This is extremely common with large estates. In situations where the estate is small it is common for serious mistakes to be made, which could cause the entire estate to be penalized losing money in taxes and additional fees, which could have been avoided. Generally, the best course of action is to hire an attorney as a neutral third party to act as executor.