Supervised Vs. Independent Estate Administration

Losing a loved one can become even harder when you are put in a position to navigate their estate through the complex and time-consuming legal process of probate. The ultimate goal of probate, also called estate administration, is to ensure that the financial matters and property of the deceased are handled in line with their wishes, and all state and local laws. This includes distributing the decedent’s estate assets to their heirs or legatees, and ensuring that debts owed to creditors are paid off or resolved. 

Depending on the circumstances of the estate, the process of estate administration in Illinois may be either supervised or independent. Understanding the distinctions between supervised and independent administration is incredibly important; these processes will involve different levels of oversight and time spent in court, which could affect how long the probate process takes and how much it ultimately costs. Just as importantly, the person responsible for overseeing the administration of the estate — the executor or administrator — may have somewhat different responsibilities depending on whether the estate is facing supervised or independent administration. 

Supervised Vs. Independent Administration

Broadly speaking, independent administration means that the executor or administrator will not have to obtain court orders or file estate papers in court during probate, unless specifically ordered to do so — generally, because an interested person asks the court to become involved, or because the decedent’s will expressly forbids independent administration. 

In contrast, supervised administration requires court supervision of virtually every part of the probate process; the executor or administrator will generally be required to obtain court approval for every key decision that he or she will make during the course of estate administration, such as selling estate assets, settling creditors’ claims, and making distributions from the estate. The executor must also file an inventory and accounting with the court during supervised administration, whereas an independent administrator must provide an inventory and accounting with interested parties but is not obligated to provide one to the court. 

As a result of these restrictions and requirements, supervised administration is generally more time-intensive and expensive than independent administration, as it requires far more time and effort spent filing paperwork and making court appearances. 

While some people assume that supervised administration is the most common method used for probate, the reality is that independent administration is used far more often in Illinois.

When Is Supervised Administration Required?

Broadly speaking, supervised administration is only required under a handful of specific circumstances, including: 

The decedent’s will expressly forbids independent administration

During the process of estate planning, an individual and their attorney may decide to include wording in the will that expressly forbids independent administration, which would make supervised administration required in probate. 

Conversely, while living, the decedent and their attorney may also take care to include language that explicitly directs independent administration, in an effort to make sure that their loved ones will not have to navigate supervised administration — since it is often considered to be more stressful and time-consuming for the executor, and more public and costly for the estate. 

An interested person objects to the grant of independent administration.

The court will enter an order terminating the independent administration status of the estate upon petition by any interested person, mailed or delivered to the clerk of the court, except in certain circumstances. 

For instance, if the decedent’s will directs independent administration, this status will only be terminated if the court finds there is good cause to require supervised administration. 

Similarly, if the petitioner or objector is a creditor or a legatee other than a residuary legatee, the court will only terminate independent administration status if it finds that termination is necessary to protect the petitioner’s interest. In some cases, rather than terminating independent administration status, the court may order another action that it deems adequate to protect the petitioner or objector’s interest. As one example, an interested person may request a full court accounting and inventory of receipts and disbursements, as would be required under supervised administration. 

In addition to attempting to terminate independent administration, any interested person may also petition the court at any time to hold a hearing and issue an order resolving a matter germane to the administration of the estate — even if supervised administration has not been formally requested. If the executor or administrator petitions the court for instructions on how to exercise any discretionary power, the court’s judgment will substitute for the executor’s or administrator’s.

There is an interested person who is a minor or person with a disability.

The court may require supervised administration whenever the court finds that the interests of the ward are not adequately represented by a personal fiduciary acting or designated to act under independent administration, and that supervised administration is necessary to protect the ward’s interests.

The Importance of Preparing for Probate

There are many steps you can take to make difficult life transitions easier for the people who matter most to you. Getting a handle on your property and assets and preparing for probate are important steps you can take now — with enormous benefits to offer your loved ones down the line. 

Planning ahead can help keep peace within your family, minimizing the risk for strife and arguments. At the same time, you can help secure your family’s future, saving them time, money, and stress when it comes to the complex legal process of probate. 

Whether you are ready to take some steps to safeguard your assets, or are dealing with the legal aftermath of losing someone close to you, an experienced probate attorney is an important partner to have on your side. 

That’s where our team would be happy to step in and help. At The Law Offices of J. Jeltes, LTD., our team of compassionate and knowledgeable legal advocates know what it takes to guide you through some of life’s most challenging family transitions. 

Our legal professionals are driven, attentive, and dedicated to achieving the best result possible.  Every situation is unique and before hiring our firm, our attorneys will provide you with a comprehensive one-on-one consultation to discuss your legal concerns and goals. 

Looking to the future? We can help you understand what goes into the estate planning process, evaluate your assets, and prepare all necessary documents, including basic wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and advanced directives. 

Facing the probate process? We understand that settling one’s financial matters after a death, with both family members and creditors, can be daunting. The Law Offices of J. Jeltes, Ltd. can help you navigate challenges that may arise during probate administration, from minor and disabled heirs and legatees to dealing with creditors or unfunded trusts. Our attorneys have experience with both contested and uncontested estates, asset division, and probate administration. 

Have any more questions? Ready to get in touch? Don’t hesitate to contact us whenever you’d like to begin the conversation.