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Important Tips for Executor of the Estate

The Law Office of David G. Bale Feb. 25, 2022

You’ve been named the personal representative in the will of a family member or close friend, and suddenly, that person passes away, leaving their estate in your hands. What lies ahead is a legal challenge known as probate court proceedings.

When you present the will to the probate court, you will be named executor of the estate, and you will then face several months of settling the affairs of the deceased before finally distributing assets to the named beneficiaries.

Depending on the size of the estate – the assets left behind in the deceased’s name – the process can be long, involved, and complicated. Since creditors are given six months after the death to press their claims, probate proceedings will take at least that long, usually months longer.

If you’re facing the prospect of administering an estate as the executor of a will in or around Westerville, Ohio, contact The Law Office of David G. Bale. David Bale is an experienced estate administration attorney who can work with you to resolve all the challenges faced in probate proceedings.

The Law Office of David G. Bale also proudly serves clients in Worthington, New Albany, Delaware County, and Franklin County.

Important Tips for the Executor of an Estate

Your first obligation is to the family of the deceased. You need to make sure that family members are being provided for and that pets are taken care of. The will may name a guardian for any minor children, or it may specify who should take care of any pets. You should follow the wishes of the deceased.

The first administrative step upon the passing of the person who named you personal representative is to present the person’s will and death certificate to the probate court. Death certificates also may need to be sent to Social Security, the Veterans Administration, Medicare, and other concerned entities.

The next step is to send out notice of probate proceedings to everyone named in the will and to close relatives who may have been left out. This, of course, may lead to challenges to the will if someone feels left out or slighted. You will also need to pay all bills that you know of, which could require going through letters and other documents left behind by the decedent.

In many states, you also have to publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper, but Ohio does not require this except under certain circumstances. You should check with the court or a knowledgeable attorney when in doubt.

You are also suddenly responsible for the expenses and assets of the decedent’s estate. You should move quickly to cancel ongoing debts for services such as television and internet, cell phones, club memberships, and even magazine subscriptions.

You should set up a bank account for the estate to which any cash in the estate should be placed. You must also pay any taxes owed to the state and federal governments. There is no estate tax in Ohio, and the threshold for owing a federal estate tax currently stands at $12.06 million.

Now is when things start to get more complicated. You will need to collect all of the decedent’s assets and manage them. These will likely be part of the distribution of assets specified in the will. Some assets may have to be converted to cash, and in this case, you will no doubt need an appraiser to value them and possibly a broker or other sales agents to sell them.

It’s at this time, if not earlier, that you should bring on board an experienced estate administration attorney to answer your questions, guide you, and provide needed services when the going gets rough, for instance, if there are challenges to the will by relatives or creditors.

You should also maintain accurate records of everything you do, and you should communicate with heirs and beneficiaries to let them know your progress. You should also keep records of all expenses, as you will be reimbursed for these from the assets of the estate. These can include attorney’s fees, appraiser’s fees, and other expenses incurred while administering the estate.

You will also be eligible for compensation for administering the estate. Ohio statutes regulate the compensation.

Once every obligation – and objection – has been met and resolved, you can then distribute assets according to the wishes of the decedent in his or her will.

Heirs and beneficiaries may try to rush you into this step, but take your time and make sure you have completed every other step completely and accurately. Work with your attorney and the court to make sure the time is right for distribution of assets.

Getting the Experienced Legal Guidance You Need

The probate process can be long and complicated, and most people probably are unfamiliar with many of the tasks required. The knowledge and help of an experienced estate administration and probate attorney can prove invaluable.

If you’re entering probate proceedings as an executor in or around Westerville, Ohio, or nearby in Worthington or New Albany, or anywhere in the counties of Franklin and Delaware, contact The Law Office of David G. Bale. David Bale has decades of experience in helping people navigate the estate administration process, and he stands ready to help you.