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Probate Estate Administration Guide for Executors from Cleveland, Akron, OH area Probate Lawyer


Probate Estate Administration Guide for Executors from Cleveland, Akron, OH area Probate Lawyer


Executors Guide from Cleveland, Akron, Ohio Probate Estate LawyerProbate estate administration is one of our main focus areas at Valente Law, LLC.  As a probate estate lawyer in the greater Cleveland, Ohio, Akron, Ohio areas, we regularly practice in Cuyahoga County Probate Court, Summit County Probate Court, Medina County Probate Court, Lorain County Probate Court, and all surrounding areas.  We have the experience and knowledge to make the probate estate process easier on our clients.

Probate Estate Executor’s Duties and Probate Process

If you have been named as an executor or you are faced with the foreseeable death of a loved on, you probably have a lot of questions. You might be wondering what you can do to make the process as easy as possible? What does the probate process entail? And what is expected of you.  This checklist should help explain your responsibilities as executor, and what you will need to accomplish to close out the probate estate.  This checklist does not include every responsibility, and is not a substitute for legal counsel.  Please review the following checklist, and call us to help you get started with your probate estate.

Assemble Your Probate Counselors and Team

First, you will want to identify each of the professionals that your decedent used to set up their estate plan. Each of the following professionals should be part of your probate team:

  1. Probate Attorney:
  2. Accountant:
  3. Financial Adviser:
  4. Insurance Agent:
  5. Real Estate Agent:
  6. Funeral Home:

Arrange and Perform the Decedent’s Memorial Wishes

  1. Follow the Decedent’s advanced medical directives relating to their end-of-life treatment, pain management, artificial life support directions, organ donor directives.  Review the Decedent’s Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney, HIPAA Authorization, Donor Registry Enrollment Form and Do Not Resuscitate Form to determine the Decedent’s wishes.
  2. Begin arrangements for the Decedent’s minor children and pets.  Contact the surviving parent, guardian, or any pet trustees or other individuals named to take care of the Decedent’s children or pets.  Check the Decedent’s Will to determine who the guardian is, and check the Pet Trust, if there is one, to determine who should take care of the pets.
  3. Initiate arrangements for the final disposition of the Decedent’s body.  Review the Decedent’s Will for any specific memorial or disposition directions are provided.  Check to see if the Decedent had pre-paid burial plots or funeral plans.  Check for any funeral trusts. Then, if no direction is provided in the Will, check the Health Care Power of Attorney to determine if it contains authority for disposition of the Decedent’s remains.  However, of it does not, then the surviving spouse, or next of kin will have authority to make the decisions. If the Decedent or Decedent’s spouse was a US military veteran, reserve or active duty, contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to determine if there are any burial benefits at (800) 827-1000.
  4. Be careful not to use your own personal funds to pay for any of the Decedent’s expenses.  You should be entitled to reimbursement, but if the estate is insolvent, you won’t be reimbursed.  Keep good records of all memorial and burial expenses.
  5. Make sure the Decedent’s family and friends are made aware of the plans.

Secure the Decedent’s Assets

  1. Collect all house keys, and change the locks if there is any concern over unauthorized access to the Decedent’s home.
  2. Inform the police that the house will be vacant.
  3. Cancel any cleaning services, food deliveries, or other similar on site services.
  4. Cancel newspaper or magazine deliveries, and request refunds.
  5. Inform the Decedent’s banks and financial investment institutions to ensure no unauthorized transactions are processed.
  6. Inform the Social Security Administration of the Decedent’s Death.
  7. While you should secure the Decedent’s assets now, DO NOT distribute them or remove them before opening the probate estate, unless you believe it is necessary to avoid theft.
  8. Contact the Post Office to forward mail to your address.
  9. Do not transfer any assets or make any beneficiary claims before contacting Valente Law. If you do so wrongfully, which is very easy to do, you may be subject to triple damages, sanctions and other punishments.

Prepare to Open the Probate Estate

  1. If you haven’t already done so, contact Valente Law to help you, because things are going to start getting much more technical and legal intensive.
  2. Obtain all original estate planning documents, including the Will and any Trusts.  If you can’t locate the originals, check with the Decedent’s prior attorney, and safes or safety deposit boxes at the bank, or the Court.
  3. Note: you do not need to hire the Decedent’s prior attorney. Rather, hire an attorney that you thin is best suited to help YOU! Because you are the client, and you need to be able to trust, rely on, and get along with the probate attorney you hire.
  4. Contact the funeral home to obtain Death Certificates.
  5. Gather financial information and get an estimate of the value of the Decedent’s estate.
  6. Gather all recent tax returns.
  7. To plan ahead, you can review most of the probate rules provided in the Ohio Probate Code, which can be found in Title 21 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Open the Probate Estate

  1. Hopefully you’ve already engaged Valente Law to assist you in this process.  If you haven’t, do so now before you get in over your head and make costly mistakes.
  2. File the Decedent’s Will, Death Certificate and first round of probate estate forms to the Probate Court to file them.  The first round of forms will submit the Will to the Court, provide an estimate of the estate’s value, identify the surviving house and next of kin and any beneficiaries, and request the Court to appoint you as the executor. You can locate all the probate forms here: Ohio Supreme Court’s Probate Forms.
  3. Provide notice to the surviving spouse, next of kin and any beneficiaries of the probate filings.

Take Custody of the Decedent’s Assets

  1. File IRS Form SS-4 to obtain a Tax ID number for the Decedent’s Estate.
  2. Open a bank account for the Decedent’s estate under your name as the executor.  Use the TIN number for this account.
  3. Transfer any other bank accounts into this estate account.
  4. Pay any debts or claims against the estate if they are valid and brought within 6 months of the Decedent’s date of death.
  5. Contact the Decedent’s employer or other entities to determine if the Decedent has any pensions, life insurances or other death benefits. If so, determine who the beneficiary is. Then, if the beneficiary is the estate, file the claim paperwork and deposit the proceeds in the estate account.  However, if the beneficiary is someone else, inform them and make sure they submit the claim paperwork.
  6. Contact the Decedent’s banks to check for accounts or safe deposit boxes.
  7. Review all assets to determine if they are part of the probate estate, or if they pass directly to a beneficiary because of a transfer on death designation or joint with right of survivorship designation.
  8. Contact all banks, financial institutions, annuity companies, retirement account providers, life insurance companies, and get an inventory of all assets.  Start the paperwork to get all appropriate assets transferred to the estate.
  9. Locate titles for all vehicles, including cars, boats, campers, motorcycles, trailers or other vehicles with a title,. Then get the titles transferred.
  10. Contact any third parties that owe money to the Decedent through any promissory notes, contracts, leases or similar debts.
  11. Liquidate any investments.  However, if certain investments are not freely marketable or strategically strong investments, do not liquidate the assets. Rather, transfer title to the estate, so that you can distribute them in kind to the heirs to maximize their benefit.
  12. Contact the Ohio Unclaimed Funds hotline to determine if there are any assets that were forgotten or left during Decedent’s lifetime.
  13. File the appropriate forms with the Probate Court to account for all the Decedent’s probate estate assets.

Pay the Decedent’s Taxes, Estate Expenses, and Only the Debt’s that Should be Paid

  1. You are responsible for payment of Decedent’s final local, state and federal income taxes, any estate taxes, and any income taxes on the estate.  To be clear, you will need to file final 1040s up to the Decedent’s date of death. Then you will need to file a final 1041 when you close the estate to pay taxes on any income earned after the Decedent’s date of death.
  2. Be sure to file an IRS form 706 to claim any deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE) amount. This is important so that the surviving spouse can take advantage of the unused amount.
  3. Pay all expenses of the estate.  For instance, pay all funeral bills, accounting fees, court costs, appraisal costs, realtor fees, attorney fees, etc.
  4. Pay all debts that SHOULD BE PAID.  This can get tricky – not all debts should be paid.  If any bogus claims are brought, do not pay them.  If any valid claims are brought, but are brought longer than 6 months after the Decedent’s date of death, generally speaking, you should not pay them. It is the executor’s duty to evaluate whether the claims should be paid.  Be sure to rely on the advice of your probate estate counsel to determine if you should pay a specific debt.
  5. Pay all insurance premiums on home owner’s or car insurance, so that the house and vehicles will be covered if something happens to them.
  6. Contact all utilities and pay the final amount due, then cancel the service if appropriate.
  7. Contact any landlords, or car lease companies.
  8. Pay credit cards if appropriate and cancel all cards.
  9. Pay yourself an executor’s fee for your services.  In Ohio the executor’s fee is set by statute, so have your probate attorney calculate the appropriate fee.

Distribute the Decedent’s Remaining Assets

  1. Make sure all transfer on death, death beneficiary, joint with right of survivorship, or similar assets have been transferred to the beneficiary.
  2. Distribute all remaining assets of the probate estate to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will or the Statute of Descent and Distribution.
  3. To close out the estate and get discharged from your responsibilities as executor, file a final fiduciary account with the probate court .

Hire Your Cleveland, OH, Akron, OH Probate Lawyer Now

This is meant to be a rough guide to give you an idea of what to expect.  This is not meant to be a substitute for legal probate counsel.

We are here to help you and keep you from making a mistake.  We get calls all the time from frantic people worrying they paid a debt they shouldn’t have, or can’t get control of a contested asset, or don’t know how to deal with a tax issue, or any number of other probate pitfalls.  Let us help you simplify this process, and make sure you are on the right track.  Do this for yourself, and for the Decedent’s surviving family and beneficiaries who will be relying on you to get things done quickly, correctly and cost effectively.  We are working with executors and beneficiaries in the Cleveland, Akron area everyday. We would be happy to help you, too.  Call us at (330) 665-5000.

P.S.  If you are a beneficiary and concerned that the executor is not performing his or her responsibilities, call us today to make sure you and the other beneficiaries are protected.