When a person creates a will, they put time and careful consideration into how they want their property divided and how their families will be taken care of. Significantly, they choose an executor, a person or entity that they trust to carry out the important tasks of distributing their property in accordance with their wishes and settling their estate. It is crucial for someone chosen for this duty to understand how the probate process works. This includes obtaining authority from a probate court to proceed as the executor, via “Letters of Office.”
Letters of Office
When a probate estate has been open by a probate court, has been assigned a case number, and a valid will exists, an Illinois probate court must issue Letters of Office. This is a certified document that appoints an executor for the estate who was designated in the decedent’s will. When there is no valid will, in other words, the decedent died “intestate”, the court will issue essentially the same certified document, which is referred to as “Letters of Administrator”, which appoints an administrator for the estate.
The “Letters”, which bear closer resemblance to a court order than to a traditional letter, must contain the following to be considered valid: (1) the name of the decedent; (2) the date of the decedent’s death; (3) identification of the probate court and cause number; (4) the name of the executor and their defined role; (5) the date the letters were issued; (6) a certification; and (7) the official seal of the county clerk. It is critical that information contained in the Letters are accurate, otherwise the probate case can be hampered or delayed. Consultation with a probate attorney would be wise to ensure compliance with Illinois’ complex probate statutes.
The significance of Letter of Office and Letter of Administration is providing notice and proof to all interested parties of the executor or administrator. For example, banks and investment firms need to see an executor’s Letters of Office in order to take any actions at the executor’s direction. In addition, creditors need to be notified of the probate proceedings and who to communicate about their claims with. Therefore, certified copies will need to be obtained and served upon all interested parties, including banks, financial institutions, title companies, employers, retirement accounts, and creditors.
Contact The Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas
If you have been named executor of an estate, contact an attorney. You have a critical and time-consuming job ahead of you and need to be aware of the legal requirements of your role. Contact the Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas. I have handled complex probate cases for decades and can provide you with accurate, no-nonsense legal advice. Contact my office at 847-392-5893 for a consultation or visit our website today.