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Probate - Death of a Loved One - What to expect

Probate - What is it and should you be concerned? 

When there is a death of a loved one, I have two kinds of people calling me: 

1.  The one that wants to take care of it immediately; and 

2.  The one that delays taking action. 

Both are likely a result of busy lives, and the way the person copes.   Lately, I have had many people who waited years to deal with this.    This could be because they did not know what to do or expect, or that they were afraid of the mess they would find. 

My goal is to help you through the process and get things transferred so that you and the others involved can work through your own estate planning.   

For your first appointment, you should gather the following:

1.  Do you have a Will, and are you named the Executor in the Will?   

2.   Certified Death Certificate;

3.   The Next of Kin - here are they questions we will ask: 

           Was the decedent (the person who has died) married?  

           Did the Decedent have children; please provide their names and addresses and if they are under the age of 18, their parents                 information?  If there is a spouse, is this the parent of each of the children named? 

           Did the Decedent own real estate? Provide addresses. 

            Do you have Bank and Investment Statements for the Decedent?  If yes, you will bring them with you to our meeting.

            Do you have the Decedent's Bills?     

4.  Are you ready for a meeting, and would you like any other parties to come with you?   If yes, let's schedule. 

Our first meeting is to gather the facts and figure out what will need to be filed, and what I need from you to open the Probate Estate.  We will also review the Assets to determine if you can do a "Release of Administration" instead of a Full Estate which will be quicker and a lower cost.  We also review if the Debts are more than the Assets to see if we will need to file an "Insolvent Estate" (a Bankrupt Estate) which still must be filed in the Probate Court, but will require some extra forms and following the Section in the Ohio Revised Code on the Order to pay bills.   

At our meeting, based on the information that you brought with you, we will review if we have all the information necessary to decide how to open the Probate Estate and what to do with the Assets that will not go through Probate.  This will allow us to develop how we will go forward and what your steps will be.  I will let you know what the Big Picture is and the timeline, and then we will break it down into Phases: 

 Phase 1 - gather the information, file the Will in Probate, and determine if this is a "Release of Administration" or "Full Estate".  At that time if there is no Will, then I will need to know if you can be "Bonded".  The Will usually waives the Probate Bond, but if there is no Will or the Will does not waive the Bond, the person filing the application to be the Administrator (this is the person legally appointed to manage and dispose of the estate of the deceased person who does not have a Will) must complete the Application.  At our initial appointment, I assist you with this process.  The Bond will need to be paid by the Estate, and if the Probate Estate does not include bank or investment accounts, the Administrator will usually have to pay the premium and be reimbursed when the estate does not have cash. 

A "Probate Bond" is a type of financial protection for the estate of a deceased person against the executor.    This protects the estate from experiencing a loss from poor decisions made by the executor or other actions that result in a reduction of value to the estate.  A probate bond is also known as an estate bond or fiduciary bond.

Phase 2  - Once the Executor or Administrator is appointed, we begin to gather the assets and the debt and file the Inventory; this is usually due within 90 days of begin appointed by the Court. 

Phase 3 - Creditors usually have 6 months to file their bills against the Estate.   We review the debts, have the final decedent's tax returns filed, and then determine what assets will be used to pay the debts and administrative costs.   If there is a Will and there are specific gifts named, those items are located and appraised, and then passed to the Beneficiary named in the Will.   

Phase 4 - Once all the administration costs and the debt are paid, the Administrator is able to get ready to distribute the balance of the assets either according to the Will or according to the Ohio Statute.   A final accounting must be drafted to close the estate.   If there is a Bond, a copy of the filed Final Accounting and entry to release the Bond is sent to the Bond company to close the Bond.   

With me as your guide, we will schedule each step through the process, and work together to do your job as Executor or Administrator and close the estate.   

I walk through this process when I help my clients with their estate planning.  We think and discuss what could go wrong and how to make this an easy process or to avoid the process through a Trust or naming beneficiaries.  Each person has a unique situation in that involves the people in their lives.   The goal is to empower the Executor/Trustee to handle this efficiently and effectively and not have to lose time on situations that could be avoided.  

Having a Trusted Advisor help you during Estate Planning, and at the death of a loved one or if your loved one can no longer take care of their legal and financial affairs.