A Checklist For Beginning Estate Administration
- Important Papers: Locate and review all of the decedent’s important papers as soon as possible after death. Important papers include funeral arrangements, anatomical gift directions, deeds, accounts & investment statements, wills, trusts, land trusts, gift list that may be referred to in a will or trust document, bonds, stock certificates, insurance papers for home and auto, etc.
- Anatomical Gifts: Did the decedent make an organ donation by will or by other written instrument (such as a power of attorney for health care)? If not, then relatives in the following order of priority may make such a donation: spouse, adult child(ren), parent(s), adult sibling(s), guardian of the person.
- Funeral Arrangements: If the decedent hasn’t expressed instructions for burial (either in the will or with family members), then the right of burial rests with the heirs in the following order of priority: spouse, children, parents, siblings. Payment for funeral expenses falls first to the decedent’s estate then to a legally responsible relative or to the Veteran’s Administration. If none of these groups can take responsibility for funeral expenses, then the Illinois Department of Human Services will pay a limited amount for the funeral burial space and cemetery charges.
- Death Certificates: Obtain several certified copies of the decedent’s death certificate. These may be obtained directly from the funeral home or from the Health Department/Register of Deeds/County Recorder in the county where the death occurred.
- Property: Secure the property of the decedent by locking up the decedent’s real estate and, if necessary, notifying insurance carriers that the decedent’s possessions should be insured as vacant property.
- Does a will exist?
- Yes. Obtain the original document and contact the executor named to manage the estate. A will must be filed with the Clerk of Court of the county in which the decedent resided at the time of his or her death or the county in which the substantial part of the estate rests.
- No. In this case, the decedent’s estate (not including joint tenancy or trust property) will be distributed according to the State of Illinois rules of descent and distribution found in the Illinois Probate Act, Section 2-1 as follows:
- If a spouse and children of deceased survive decedent, then ½ to spouse and ½ to children in equal shares after all estate debts, taxes and expenses are paid.
- If only a spouse and no children survive the deceased, then all to the spouse.
- If only children and no spouse survive the deceased, then to the children in equal shares.
- If no spouse or children, then one share to each parent and siblings who survive decedent and double shares where only one parent survives decedent.
- Trusts and Other Estate Distribution Documents: If a trust exists, contact the trustee or successor trustee if the decedent was the trustee. Successor trustees will need to locate all assets in the trust and change the name of the trustee with each institution or government entity.
- Safe Deposit Box: If the box is held solely by the decedent, an affidavit by an interested party, such as an executor or trustee, will need to be presented to the institution before entry will be permitted.
- General List of Assets: Create a general list of all assets owned by the decedent and the value of each on the date of the death of the decedent. Describe each asset, listing type of asset, institution, how title to the asset is held, any designated beneficiaries, contact telephone number and value. Do NOT consolidate trust with non-trust assets before consulting an attorney or accountant regarding filing an estate tax return.
This information is not to be considered legal advice. If you have questions about beginning your estate administration, please contact us.