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Independent vs. Supervised Administration in Illinois (and one of many good reasons to have a Will)

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Illinois probate administration comes in two flavors: (1) Independent; and (2) Supervised.  Most estates are administered independently.  What does this mean?  Essentially it means that the court will review the opening and the closing of the estate, but unless there is some sort of dispute or a hearing is requested or additional surety bond is necessary, the court generally does not get involved in administration issues between the opening and closing of the estate.

This is generally a good thing for estates and beneficiaries.  In contrast, supervised administration generally requires the attorney to obtain court approval to take many actions: selling or leasing real estate, selling personal property, interim distributions, etc.

More court time means more attorney time means more attorney fees.  It also often means family discord and administrative delay.  Moreover, a supervised representative is required to file the estate’s Inventory, Accounting and other sensitive estate information with the court, rather than providing only privately to interested parties.

But when will supervised administration be ordered?  The judge might initiate if the judge feels it’s appropriate to protect unrepresented minor or disabled persons.  Or, it might be requested at any stage by an heir, beneficiary or even a creditor when issues arise or problems are anticipated.  Will the judge grant such a request for supervised administration?  That depends.  There are 3 situations:

1. No Will — If there is no Will (intestate estate), then any heir can demand supervised administration at any time, and the judge will grant the request.  No reason or cause needs to be provided.

2. Will is silent on independent administration — If there is a Will, but the Will does not direct independent administration, then similar to an intestate estate, the request will be granted automatically.

3. Will directs independent administration — On the other hand, if there is a Will that expressly directs independent administration, then the judge will order supervised administration only after a showing of “good cause”.  It is not automatic as in the prior two situations.

I suppose there may be a reason why a client might intentionally not direct independent administration in their Will, but I haven’t come across such a situation.  I don’t think I’ve ever drafted a Will that doesn’t expressly direct independent administration.  In almost every case, this should be included in an Illinois Will.  But again, without a valid Will, this can’t be directed and probate will become supervised upon simple request by any interested party.