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What Does an “Executor” Do and How Do You Choose One For Your Will?

An Executor is a person named in a Will to carry out the terms of their Will after someone dies. In other words, after you pass away, your Executor manages the assets of your Probate Estate and is responsible to make sure those assets get transferred to the persons or charities you have named in your Will.

The Official Office of Executor

An Executor is only officially needed if your Estate goes through Probate Court to transfer your Assets. If Probate is needed for your estate, then your Executor will need to file a Petition for Probate with the local courts and a judge has to officially name them as the Executor of your Estate by issuing what are called “Letters of Office”. Once an Executor has “Letters of Office” they can now officially act on behalf of your Estate and sign documents on behalf of your Estate.

The Executor’s Tasks

If Probate is needed for your Estate, your Executor will need to meet with an estate planning attorney to represent them in the Probate process and advise them on how to properly administer the Assets of Your Estate. Your Executor will have to open a Bank Account for your Probate Estate; Gather Assets of your Estate; Sell and liquidate those Assets; Identify and pay legitimate creditors of your Estate (if any) in a particular order as set forth by state law; and then, finally – Pay your Legatees – the people you named as the beneficiaries of your Estate.

The Executor’s Timeframe

In Illinois Probate Process takes about a year to complete if there are no complications or disputes. If there are complications and/or disputes – the process can take much longer.

When an Executor is Not Needed

Most everyone will want to meet with an estate planning attorney to set up their estate to AVOID PROBATE. If your estate does not have to go through probate to transfer your assets to your Legatees or Heirs – then administering your estate is a much simpler process with no need to officially appoint an Executor with Letters of Office. HERE is an article that I wrote on how to avoid Probate with proper Estate Planning.

Four Tips on Choosing the Executors of Your Will

After meeting with hundreds of estate planning clients, I have four main tips on who to choose as the Executors of your Will:

  1. Name Successor Trustees: You should try to name three people as Executors of your Will if you can. One person to be your first choice as Executor and then at least two “Successor” Executor’s as backups. If your named Executor cannot act – then with Successor Executors named, they can be ready to step in if needed.

  2. Avoid naming “Co-Executors” if possible. Many times, parents will want to name all of their adult children as “Co-Executors” because they don’t want to show favoritism between their children. The Problem with naming multiple people as “Co-Executors” is that they all have to agree on how to do things when administering your Estate. If they don’t agree then they have to file a lawsuit to have a judge resolve the dispute.

  3. Executor Compensation: Executors have a right to be compensated for their time in Illinois. Illinois law says that Executors are entitled to “reasonable” compensation for the services they perform. What is reasonable Compensation? The answer is “it depends”. How large is the estate? How much does the Executor make at their day job? How sophisticated or time consuming was the work that the Executor had to perform? These factors all contribute to what an average person would consider “Reasonable” at the time the services were rendered.

  4. Who to Choose as Executor? In general, people that are married with adult children will name their spouse as first choice as Executor and their children as Successor Executors based upon which children are the most reliable/trustworthy/geographically close. For people that are not married and/or have children they usually name adult nieces and nephews; good friends; cousins; and banks with trust departments to be their Executors.


The term “Executor” means someone who is responsible for “executing” or following a task (Wikipedia). Ideally, whoever you name as your Executors are people that:

  • You trust

  • Live close to you (if possible)

  • Are good communicators

  • Are organized and reliable

Choosing an Executor is not an easy decision to make. Having the understanding of an Executor's role and responsibilities, along with tips from my years of experience, can guide you in making the right choice!


This article is a service of Attorney Chad A. Ritchie and the Ritchie Law Office, Ltd.

Click Here or call (309) 662-7000 to learn more about Ritchie Law Office, Ltd. and our Estate Planning process, which starts with an initial consultation called our “Ritchie Legacy Planning Session”.

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