In general, you have the duty to take care of and manage her estate, even more carefully than you would your own. You must be frugal, conservative and cautious. The court may authorize you to spend your aunt’s money for her comfort, support and even the education, if appropriate, as well as certain expenses of your aunt’s family. If the estate has enough money, you can be paid for serving as guardian. Your bill for services must be supported by careful records and approved by the court.
Legal FAQs: Estate Planning
Small estates do not have to go through the probate process. An estate is considered small if the person did not own any real estate and if the value of the property is $100,000 or less. The Probate Act requires the local court clerk to make available to the public a form called a small estate affidavit. Once you, as the heir, complete and sign the affidavit, you can use it to obtain and distribute your property as directed by the Probate Act or the deceased person’s will.
The contents of safe-deposit boxes are not covered by banks or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Victims of Hurricane Sandy, Katrina and other disasters such as floods, whose deposit boxes weren't covered by homeowners insurance, lost valuable heirlooms and documents, while believing they were safe. If you have a safe-deposit box, be sure to get a rider on your homeowners insurance policy to cover any potential loss.
While you are not required to spend your own money for these expenses, you may be responsible for seeking the money needed from the person’s assets and income. Your primary responsibility as a personal guardian is to ensure that the person in your care gets the medical, dental, grooming and other needed professional services that assist him or her in the development of maximum self-reliance and independence.
Now, while you are well, is the time to decide what kind of health care you will want if you are ever unable to make those decisions. You can do this by signing a Power of Attorney for Health Care and/or a Living Will. A Power of Attorney legally identifies the person who will have the power to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so, including continuing or stopping medical treatment in accordance with your wishes. The law does not automatically grant these powers to your family or friends. Also, under the Illinois Health Care Surrogate Act, there is an established order of individuals, typically family members, who can make decisions on your behalf should there be no health care power of attorney.