Hopefully, when you receive notice that you were named as a loved one’s executor, it did not come as a shock. Ideally, your loved one sat down with you and went over their estate plan and their wish for you to be their executor. They trusted you, and it is an honor to be chosen. Unfortunately, unless you have experience as an executor or a probate attorney, you may need some help.
Estate administration is a complicated legal process. If there are family issues, and you do not have experience, you could have problems. For example, executors must file the will in the county probate court, in addition to tax filing. You are the fiduciary of the estate, and as such, you must make an accounting of the estate’s assets and protect and maintain them. Before distributing assets to named beneficiaries, you must pay off debts and estate taxes, and if needed, sell assets to satisfy those debts. You also represent the estate at legal hearings, and when ready, distribute assets to the beneficiaries.
While you must file the will with the Ohio probate court, you may or may not actually need to go through the formal probate process. This process is the legal process that wraps up a person’s estate after they die. If all of your loved one’s assets are owned by someone else or in a trust, probate is not required. In addition, if the estate is worth less than $5,00 or less than the cost of a funeral, probate is not required. Moreover, some assets do not go through assets, like payable on debt accounts, retirement accounts, annuities, etc.
For those in Ohio who have been tasked as executors, know that you do not have to navigate these issues on your own. Instead, you can ask for the help of a probate and estate administration attorney, and the reasonable cost of one can, usually, be paid from the estate’s assets. Of course, not every estate needs an attorney, but a consultation could not hurt.