Besides detailing how the deceased wants their assets distributed among their heirs, a will typically names who the executor of their estate will be. The executor is responsible for ushering the estate through probate, settling the deceased’s debts and distributing the remaining assets to the named heirs.
But when a person dies without a valid will, that is called “dying intestate.” Among other things, this means the court must decide who the executor will be, based on Illinois’ intestacy laws and who requests the job.
The hierarchy of executor options
Most of the time, when a person dies without a will, the probate court will assign their surviving spouse to be the executor. But if the surviving spouse declines, they are incapable of handling the task, or the deceased was not married, the judge will next turn to the deceased’s children. If there are no surviving children willing or available, another relative can be chosen. If you want to be the executor but are lower on the priority list, you will have to get written waivers from the people ahead of you.
Who cannot be an executor?
Illinois has few restrictions on who qualifies to serve as an executor. You must be at least 18 years old, a resident of the U.S., be of sound mind, and not be “a disabled person.” In this context, a disabled person refers to:
- Someone who fails to provide for their family due to alcoholism, a drug or gambling addiction, “debauchery” or being “idle”
- Someone with an intellectual or physical disability that prevents them from handling their own affairs
- Someone with fetal alcohol syndrome
If more than one qualified family member asks to be the executor and they can’t agree between themselves who should take on the job, the judge will decide.
Legal advice that can help you avoid estate administration problems
Someone who would like the honor (and responsibility) of being the executor of a loved one’s estate after that family member died intestate should know that they can work with an attorney if they choose. Their lawyer can advise them on the probate process and help them avoid potential errors.