How to Decline Being Executor of a Will

Being named as the executor of a will is both a great honor and a great responsibility. It means that someone trusted you to wrap up their final affairs and distribute their earthly goods according to their last wishes. However, an executor, also referred to as the personal representative of the estate, has a number of duties to carry out between the time the probate estate is opened and the distribution of assets. For various reasons, not everyone feels up to the task. What do you do when you realize, “I don’t want to be an executor of someone’s will?”

Why Would Someone Decline to Be Executor?

There are many reasons you might not want to be the executor of a deceased person’s (decedent’s) estate.

  • You have a demanding job or young family that needs your attention, and simply feel that you don’t have time.
  • You lived near the decedent when the will was made, but have since moved… Read More

Guide to Final Distribution of Estate Assets

One of the responsibilities of the personal representative of an estate is the final distribution of estate assets to the heirs or beneficiaries of the deceased. Before a final distribution of estate assets can happen, however, there are many other steps that must be taken. If you are serving as the personal representative (also known as the executor or administrator) of a decedent’s estate, it is critical to fulfill those other responsibilities before making an estate distribution.

The probate/estate administration process can be a difficult one. Typically, the person appointed as personal representative is grieving the deceased, as are the heirs or beneficiaries. Many personal representatives have never served in that role before, and may be confused and frustrated by probate court requirements. In addition, heirs may not understand why it is taking so long to settle the estate, and in some cases, may unfairly suspect the personal representative of wrongdoing.

For many estates, it is a good idea for the personal representative… Read More

How to Care for Aging Parents

It’s true that for most people, their later years are some of the best of their life, but they also often come with increasing physical and mental challenges. Those challenges affect not only seniors themselves, but also the family members who love and care for them. Caring for aging parents is a rewarding, yet challenging experience. For your entire life, you may have experienced your parents as the strong and wise ones that you turned to for help. Now, they are counting on you.

If you are accustomed to your parents being strong and competent, it’s easy to miss the signs that they may be beginning to struggle, either in terms of their health or managing their daily affairs, including finances. You also may not get a straight answer if you ask if everything is under control. Just as you would prefer to continue to see your parents as you always have, they want to maintain their independence. However, there are signs that they may need some additional support.

How to Determine if an Aging Parent is Unable to Manage Their Affairs

Your parents may not tell you—or sometimes, even realize—that they are struggling. That said, there are some telltale sig… Read More

What Happens if I Find More Assets After the Estate is Closed?

As probate attorneys, one of our duties is to guide the personal representative of an estate through their many responsibilities. One of the first things a personal representative must do is identify all assets belonging to the decedent’s estate, safeguard those assets, and inventory them. That allows all interested parties to know what property is part of the estate. After the estate’s debts are paid, remaining assets are distributed to heirs or beneficiaries. But what happens if there are assets found after the estate is closed? After an estate is closed, can it be reopened?

These questions are not uncommon. Few people have a thorough list of all the property they own, and a deceased person (decedent) may own assets of which their personal representative is unaware. There may be a safe deposit box at the bank, or money owed to the deceased may be discovered. Whatever the source, those assets of the estate need to be properly distributed. An experienced probate attorney can help.

Once an Estate is Closed, Can it Be Reopened?

An estate is closed after its legitimate debts have been paid and any remaining assets are distributed according to law or the… Read More

What Happens if Creditors Aren’t Notified of a Probate Case?

You can’t take it with you—and in addition to leaving your money behind, chances are you’ll leave some unpaid bills behind, too. What happens to your debts after you die?

The short answer is that they get paid out of your probate estate according to a priority established by Ohio law. Creditors must present a claim within 6 months of the date of death, after which time the executor or administrator of the estate has thirty days to reject or allow the claim.

In many states, the executor or administrator of the estate is required to give notice to creditors of the deceased. If there are known creditors, they must be notified directly, while an advertisement is placed in legal newspapers to provide notice to unknown creditors. However, in Ohio, there is generally no such notice requirement. That said, there are a few exceptions to that rule.

When Must an Ohio Personal Representative Make a Notice to Creditors of Probate?

The first situation in which an Ohio personal representative must publish n… Read More

Paying Estate Debts: Why Priority Matters

One of the many duties of a personal representative of an estate is to pay all legitimate debts of the estate before distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. But what happens if there are not enough assets in the estate to pay all the money that is owed? Are beneficiaries liable for estate debts?

As a general rule, beneficiaries of the estate of a deceased person (decedent) are not liable for estate debts. (There are some exceptions, such as if the debt was a joint one or the beneficiary of the estate co-signed for the debt.) But it’s still important to pay debt in the proper order, according to Ohio law on the priority of debts.

How Are Debts Paid From an Estate?

Under Ohio law, creditors have six months from the date of the decedent’s death to make a claim for payment against the estate. After six months, any claims against the estate are barred. Part of the reason for this rule is to provide certainty. Otherwise, a personal representative could pay known debts of the estate and distribute the remaining property, only to have a creditor appear weeks, months, or years l… Read More

Advantages of Probate Mediation

Probate is the court-supervised process of administering a deceased person’s estate after their death. Ohio probate courts are also involved in appointing guardians for people who lack the capacity to manage their own affairs. These processes can be emotionally charged, and it is not uncommon for family members to have disputes about how estate business should be handled or who should be appointed administrator or guardian. These disputes have historically been resolved by litigation in the probate court.

Probate litigation may result in a definitive answer about the issue at hand, but probate matters are often also about conflicts that a court cannot effectively address. In recent years, probate mediation has become more popular as a way of reaching deeper, more lasting resolutions to the issues involved in probate disputes.

What is Probate Mediation?

Probate mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party, a trained mediator, helps parties to a probate dispute reach a mutually agreeable resolution… Read More

Can a Prenup Prevent Inheriting From Your Spouse?

Many, if not most people intend their spouse to be the primary beneficiary of their estate. But there are also many situations in which it makes sense to limit a spouse’s inheritance. Maybe you have family wealth or an interest in a family business that you want to remain in your family of origin if you should die. Perhaps you and your spouse are marrying later in life, and have each accumulated significant assets on your own. You might have children from a previous marriage that you would prefer to inherit your assets; a prenup can protect your child’s inheritance in the event that you predecease your spouse. Whatever your motivation, a prenuptial agreement can be a valuable estate planning tool.

If your first thought when you hear the word “prenup” is divorce, you’re not alone. But a prenuptial agreement is nothing more than agreement between a couple before their marriage as to how they will approach issues (usually financial) during their marriage. While a prenup does deal with how the couple’s property will be treated in a divorce, it can also address what… Read More

When Should a Personal Representative Be Removed?

When an Ohio resident dies, a personal representative must be appointed to administer their estate. If there was a will, the probate court often appoints the executor named in the will. If the deceased did not have a will, the court will appoint an administrator (typically a close family member) to serve as personal representative of the estate.

The personal representative is a fiduciary — someone obligated to act in the best interests of another party, rather than their own. In the case of a decedent’s estate, this person is obligated to follow the law and act in the best interests of the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate. Most representatives take their fiduciary duties very seriously. Sometimes, though, an executor or administrator commits a breach of fiduciary duty, or there is so… Read More

The Use of Domestic Asset Protection Trusts to Protect Assets from Creditors

Many people who establish trusts want to do so in order to protect assets for their loved ones. But there are many types of trusts, and not all of them protect against the same types of risks. All trusts keep assets out of probate. Depending on how they are structured, trusts can be used to reduce taxes, provide for loved ones with disabilities or special needs, benefit a favorite charity, and more. But if you are looking to protect assets from your beneficiaries’ creditors, you may need a domestic asset protection trust (DAPT).

Made possible by the Ohio Asset Management Modernization Act (OMMA) of 2012, the Ohio Legacy Trust Act (OLTA) became law in 2013. permitting the creation of domestic asset protection trusts (also called “Ohio Legacy Trusts” in Ohio. People who live in states that do not allow DAPTs can still create one in a state that does, if the trust complies with that state’s laws. Of the states that do allow DAPTs, Ohio consist… Read More