If you have been named executor in someone’s will, it is a sign that person had great trust in you. It’s understandable to be honored, but it is also a time to be careful to make wise decisions to avoid common mistakes.
Being an executor exposes you to personal liability if you mishandle the decedent’s assets or fail to fulfill the duties of an executor. The first step is to consult with an attorney who understands the Ohio probate process. You can begin with the attorney who drafted the will, but you are able to hire any attorney you wish to help you navigate the probate process.
Take action –Upon consulting with an attorney, it is important to act. It is surprising how many people who are appointed executor fail to take the necessary steps to initiate the process. Beneficiaries will likely take legal action against you if you do not act in a timely fashion.
Know your limitations – As executor, you are charged with overseeing the process; that does not mean you make the rules. You must treat all beneficiaries fairly. Do not sell yourself an asset in the estate at a discount or take any unethical acts.
Keep probate and non-probate assets straight – Some assets do not have to go through probate. Joint accounts, some real estate holdings and other payable-on-death assets are automatically transferred to one or more beneficiaries.
Complete all necessary paperwork – The executor is responsible for preparing all legal documents necessary to transfer the decedent’s assets to intended beneficiaries.
Know when to seek help – Too often, executors enlist legal help after costly mistakes have already occurred. Keep in mind that legal fees for assistance with estate administration can be taken from the estate itself. Enlist the help of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney early in the process.
Probate is not the frustrating process some say should be avoided at all costs. If there is a well-crafted will and you have assistance from an experienced estate administration attorney, the probate process should go smoothly.