If you have been named as the executor of your deceased family member or friend’s estate, it is important for you to understand your duties and obligations. While every situation varies, there are some basic steps you should take to begin the process of settling your loved one’s estate:
1. Locate Estate Planning Documents
One of your first steps involves determining whether your deceased loved one had a Will or Trust, and to locate the original documents. These documents will identify who was nominated to settle the estate and spell out the deceased person’s wishes for how assets should pass. If no Will or Trust exists, then Ohio laws will determine how, and to whom, assets will pass.
2. Safeguard and Create an Inventory of Tangible Assets
One of the executor’s responsibilities is to safeguard the deceased person’s assets, including any tangible personal property. Creating an inventory of such property will be helpful in identifying what assets were part of the probate estate.
3. Identify Financial Accounts with Beneficiaries
Financial accounts that were owned as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship” and accounts that had one or more named beneficiaries will pass to the surviving joint owner or named beneficiaries and will not be controlled by the terms of the Will. Try to identify and document the deceased person’s financial accounts, noting which had named beneficiaries or joint owners, and which did not. If you aren’t sure whether an account had named beneficiaries, you may be able to obtain that information by contacting the agent, broker, or advisor on the account.
4. Identify Creditors
You will also need to identify if the deceased person had any outstanding debts, such as mortgage loans, auto loans, credit card debt or other financial obligations. Part of the probate process involves notifying creditors, who then have a set period of time to assert a claim for payment. Your probate attorney can help you understand the estate’s obligations to pay valid debts, as there are very specific rules that apply.
5. Locate Deeds for Real Property
You should also try to locate property deeds for any real estate the deceased person owned or had an interest in, either as the sole owner, a joint owner or as a tenant in common. This may include his or her primary residence, rental property, and vacation property, including deeded timeshare interests.
6. Obtain Ohio Probate Forms
Finally, you will need to obtain, complete, and file the required Ohio Probate forms. It is essential for you to understand that the clerks of courts will not help you complete the forms nor will they provide you with legal advice. Working with a probate attorney can help you ensure you complete the forms accurately.
Nothing about losing a loved one is ever easy. However, when you choose to work with an experienced, knowledgeable Ohio probate attorney to help settle your loved one’s estate, you can be confident that you have a skilled resource ready to help you navigate what can otherwise be a difficult process.
Paul Kellogg is an attorney in Cincinnati with the Phillips Law Firm, Inc. Paul’s practice focuses on providing comprehensive estate planning and probate services to families and business owners, as well as serving as outside general counsel to entrepreneurs and businesses where he provides guidance and advice on a wide variety of transactions and disputes. He can be reached at (513) 985-2500 or via email at PJK@PhillipsLawFirm.com. Please explore Paul’s other articles on estate planning and business on the Phillips Law Firm Blog page.
The article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Anyone contemplating taking legal action is urged to obtain proper legal advice from an attorney licensed in your particular jurisdiction.