Illinois law allows the executor of the estate of an Illinois decedent to receive "reasonable compensation" for his work, but unlike some states it does not specify an actual percentage of the estate's assets to which the executor is entitled. All compensation must meet approval of the probate court. For this reason, executors in Illinois should carefully track all hours spent working on the estate. Reasonable compensation depends on the time and effort involved.


The testator, or person writing the will, names the executor as the person he wants to administer his estate and fulfill his intentions as designated in the will. The executor receives formal appointment from the probate court in the county in which the decedent resided. The executor has a financial duty and responsibility to the estate. In most cases, hiring an attorney to guide the executor through the probate process is advisable. In Illinois, attorneys receive an hourly fee, not a percentage of the estate.

Opening Probate

The executor must file the original will with the probate court within 30 days of the decedent's death, along with a certified copy of the death certificate, and file a petition to open probate. The court then qualifies and appoints the executor within 30 days of the petition filing and issues "letters testamentary," which are documents necessary to administer the estate. The executor must notify all heirs and beneficiaries listed in the will of the opening of the probate process.

Executor Duties

The executor must protect and inventory all assets, including real estate and tangible personal property, held solely in the decedent's name. Tangible personal property includes cash, stocks and bonds, mutual funds, bank accounts, motor vehicles, art, jewelry and antiques. The executor must pay any of the decedent's debts or claims to the estate out of the estate's assets, file the decedent's final tax return and pay any taxes due and file any required estate taxes. The executor must file an estate accounting with the court on at least an annual basis, advising the court and heirs and beneficiaries of the status of the estate.


Once all debts and taxes are paid and any claims settled, the executor first distributes legacies, if any, listed in the will. A legacy is tangible personal property left to a specific heir. For example, the decedent may have bequeathed the family silver to one of her children, and certain pieces of jewelry to another. The executor may then ask the court for compensation, and after it is granted, the balance of the estate is divided according to the percentage specified in the will to heirs and beneficiaries.