When an Illinois resident dies without someone to handle estate administration, the office of the public administrator steps in.1 Similarly, when a disabled adult with an estate valued over $25,000 needs a guardian, the office of the public guardian is available to be appointed.2 This article explains the offices of public administrator and public guardian in Illinois’ 102 counties and why they could be an interesting addition to an estate and guardian ship practice.
Public administrators and public guardians in Illinois are appointed for each county by the Governor to four year terms, and they have to be confirmed by the Illinois Senate.3 The chief judge of the Circuit Court appoints the public guardian in counties with a population of a million or more.4 They are not paid by the government, except in counties with over a million in population.5 The Governor may appoint one person to be public administrator and public guardian of several counties.6 After appointment, the appointee must become certified as a National Certified Guardian within six months, pay a bond of $5,000, and file an oath in the Circuit Court.7 Once appointed, an appointee can begin carrying out the duties of public administrator and public guardian.
A public administrator handles the estate administration for those who died in Illinois without a will or person to probate the estate.8 The decedent does not need to be a resident of this state.9 Once the public administrator has letters of office as the administrator of the estate, he or she has the powers of an administrator under the Probate act.10 In counties with a population less than a million, the public administrator is paid from fees, but the public administrator bears the expenses of the office.11 In counties with a population more than a million, the public administrator pays the fees to a fund held by the county treasurer, and the county board sets the compensation, which has to be a minimum of $20,000 but can be more.12 Serving as a public administrator can be a challenging but rewarding addition to an estate practice, and the same case would be true for serving as a public guardian.
A public guardian may be appointed as guardian for disabled adults with estates valued more than $25,000.13 Residents with estates worth less than $25,000 are served by the Office of the State Guardian.14 If the person’s estate falls below $25,000 while being a ward of the public guardian, then the guardianship is transferred to the State Guardian.15 The duties of the public guardian include: monitoring the ward’s care and progress, preparing inventory of the ward’s belongings, and paying for care out of the estate’s funds (including liquidating assets if needed).16 The public guardian also has to file an annual report with the Circuit Court that details the cases handled, including the dates they were assigned, dates of termination and disposition of each terminated case, as well as fees collected from each ward.17
Public administrators and public guardians serve an important role in Illinois by helping with estate administration and protecting the interests of disabled adults. The work done by public administrators and public guardians can be an intriguing addition to an estate and guardianship practice. If any lawyers are interested in serving, they can fill out an online application at appointments.illinois.gov and select “Public Administrator and Public Guardian.” ■