What is Estate Administration?
A probate estate is a legal proceeding provided for by Ohio law to determine the assets of a deceased person who was an Ohio resident at the time of death, the value of those assets, and the distribution of those assets to the persons entitled to them by law.
A probate estate is necessary to protect and conserve the assets of the decedent for the heirs, creditors, and other persons interested in the estate. The probate estate will provide for the payment of outstanding debts, the payment of taxes, and the distribution of the remaining assets to the persons entitled to receive them under the decedent's will or by law. This process is known as the administration of a decedent's estate.
What are the Duties of the Fiduciary?
An estate is opened by any interested person filing an application to administer the estate. The application is filed in the county in which the decedent resided. The Court appoints an estate representative, called a fiduciary, and issues Letters of Authority. The fiduciary is appointed according to the decedent's will or statutory guidelines. If appointed by will, the fiduciary is an executor. If there is no will, the fiduciary is an administrator. It is the responsibility of the fiduciary to administer the decedent's estate and to account to the Court for that administration. A fiduciary who fails to perform their statutory duties is subject to removal by the Court. A bond may be required of the fiduciary to protect the beneficiaries and creditors of the estate and to ensure proper administration.
What are the Steps of an Estate Administration?
Pursuant to the statutes and local Court rules, the basic steps of administration are as follows:
- Application for authority to administer the estate and to admit the will to probate if one exists
- Appointment of fiduciary
- Gathering of assets and obtaining appraisals as required
- Filing the inventory in a timely manner
- Payment of estate debts
- Filing of estate and income tax returns and payment of taxes, if any
- Distribution of remaining assets to beneficiary(s)
- Closing the estate by filing a final account or certificate of termination in a timely manner.
Does a Fiduciary Need an Attorney?
Due to the complexity of the law and the legal problems that are involved in estate administration, the Court strongly recommends that all fiduciaries seek legal counsel. Good legal advice and guidance can expedite the probate process, prevent costly errors, and protect against the fiduciary being sued.