The Public Administrator for each of Illinois' 102 counties is a State Official, appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Illinois Senate for 4-year terms of office, pursuant to §13-1 of the Illinois Probate Code (755 ILCS 5/13-1). The current Public Administrator of Cook County is David A. Epstein.
The function of the Public Administrator in each county is to protect, probate and administer the estates of deceased residents of the county (and of non-Illinoisans whose estates include assets in the county) who do not have family available to serve as administrator or did not leave a will designating a person to serve as executor of their estate.
For such persons' estates, the Public Administrator, together with the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office) arranges for burial, protects the estate property from loss or theft, conducts searches for the decedent's assets, locates and contacts heirs who may be entitled to inherit from the estate, liquidates estate assets as appropriate, pays the debts and taxes of the decedent, and insures that the appropriate legatees and heirs receive their proper inheritances.
When heirs are discovered but cannot be located, their inheritances are deposited with the Cook County Treasurer in their names, and are available for recover by the heirs within 7 years. Unclaimed inheritances, and in instances where there are no heirs or legatees, are deposited with the Cook County Treasurer (as an "escheat" under Illinois law).
All estates administered by the Public Administrator are supervised by the Circuit Court of Cook County in the same manner and subject to the same probate laws that govern privately administered estates. The Public Administrator is a fiduciary office, and is legally required to preserve and account for all assets committed to his or her custody. The Public Administrator is statutorily bound to act in the best interest of an administered estate.