When a loved one passes away, you likely face many questions, including what to do with their assets and property. The probate process is often necessary to manage a decedent’s estate.
The probate lawyers at Slater & Zurz are ready to guide you through the probate process from beginning to end.
When an individual passes away, many tasks become important to complete, including handling the decedent’s debts and accounts and distributing their property and assets. Probate is a court-supervised process to administer a decedent’s estate, allowing the personal representative to handle the most important tasks.
If a person has a will, the probate court authenticates the will to carry out what is detailed in the document. If the decedent dies intestate, meaning they do not have a will, the probate court can make pertinent decisions regarding the estate.
While not always necessary, probate is often required to manage a decedent’s estate and formally close it.
The probate court appoints a personal representative, or executor, to handle a person’s estate.
Among many details in a will, an individual can appoint a personal representative of their choosing. The will often list more than one person in case one or more options are unwilling or unable to serve as personal representatives.
If the decedent does not have a will and therefore has not chosen a personal representative, the probate court can appoint one.
Personal representatives are commonly those closest to the decedent, including spouses, children, or parents, but any trusted individual can serve in the role.
The personal representative is the most important role in handling a person’s estate. This individual is responsible for managing the estate and carrying out the essential tasks to close out the estate. Once the estate officially closes, the personal representative is relieved of their duties.
When a person has passed away, much work is frequently to be done. Probate helps get the most important steps done, including:
- Formally opening a probate case with the court
- Notifying the beneficiaries and heirs of their loved one’s passing
- Notifying creditors of the decedent’s passing
- Managing the decedent’s debts and accounts
- Locating and maintaining property and assets
- Paying taxes
- Properly distributing property to heirs and beneficiaries
The exact goals of probate often depend on the decedent’s situation and what’s left to be done after their passing. Every probate case is unique and requires varying steps to close the estate formally.
While every probate case differs, many cases share some of the same required steps. These common steps are as follows.
To open a probate case, you’ll need to file the required documents with the court, including:
- A petition to open the probate case
- The decedent’s death certificate
- The decedent’s will
You would file the decedent’s will unless they died intestate. Submitting the decedent’s will allows the probate court to authenticate the document.
When you file to open the probate case, you’re also asking the probate court to appoint a personal representative formally.
Even if the decedent left behind a valid will with their personal representative of choice, the probate court still needs to appoint the personal representative. Without a formal appointment, the personal representative cannot legally take over and handle the required tasks.
Once the court approves the selection of the personal representative, the individual receives a court document that gives them the power to manage many important aspects of the estate, including closing bank accounts and selling property.
Although many heirs and beneficiaries may already be aware of their loved one’s passing, the personal representative formally notifies them of the probate case.
While there is no duty for a personal representative to notify creditors of a decedent’s passing formally, it depends on the details of the estate. When in doubt, a Canton probate lawyer can determine whether a personal representative needs to notify creditors.
The personal representative must take inventory of the decedent’s property and assets and ensure they take control of everything.
For example, if the decedent had a house, the personal representative would keep the home in good condition and continue to pay the insurance bills.
The personal representative must manage both the decedent’s accounts and their outstanding debts, performing tasks like:
- Closing the decedent’s bank and savings accounts
- Opening and transferring funds into a bank account exclusively for the estate
- Paying off the decedent’s outstanding debts
- Closing credit card accounts
In some cases, if the decedent has excessive debt, the personal representative must liquidate property and assets to pay off the debt.
Once all debts and taxes have been paid, the personal representative can distribute the remaining property and assets to the beneficiaries according to the decedent’s will.
If the decedent died without a will, the court would use intestacy laws to determine distributions.
Once every task is completed, the personal representative submits a final accounting to the probate court detailing debts paid and distributions made to beneficiaries.
If the court approves the final accounting, they will close the estate, and the personal representative will officially be discharged of their duties.
Probate is necessary in many cases. However, there may be some exceptions and situations where a decedent’s estate does not need to go through probate.
The easiest way to avoid probate is to have a solid estate plan. An estate plan often consists of various documents, including wills and trusts.
For example, when you create a living trust, your assets can be placed in the trust and will automatically transfer to your beneficiaries at the time of your passing. In this scenario, there would be no need for probate.
You can also add beneficiaries to your assets, including bank accounts and life insurance policies, directly. When your accounts have designated beneficiaries, they transfer directly to the beneficiary at your death, eliminating probate.
Additionally, for small estates, Ohio offers a streamlined process. A small estate is either of the following:
- An estate with a value of $35,000 or less
- An estate with a value of $100,000 or less, but the entire estate is going to the decedent’s spouse
In a small estate, you’d still have to go through probate, but the process would be much simpler than regular probate.
If you’re unsure of whether a decedent’s estate needs to go through probate, an attorney for probate can review the details of the situation and provide legal advice.
If a loved one has passed away and you’re unsure what to do, a Canton probate lawyer can guide you through the process.
A probate lawyer in Canton has the knowledge and experience to help you handle your probate matter. They can assist you with many tasks, including:
- Locating the decedent’s will
- Drafting and filing court documents
- Notifying beneficiaries and heirs
- Maintaining and appraising property
- Managing debts and accounts
- Handling creditor claims
- Distributing property
- Closing out the estate case
It is not uncommon to encounter unexpected challenges during the estate administration process. Having a qualified attorney for probate gives you valuable peace of mind, knowing they’ll be available to help you from beginning to end.
Simply put, a probate lawyer handles the administration of a person’s estate after they’ve passed. While a personal representative is always necessary, a lawyer for probate can work with the personal representative to get tasks done.
It is common for personal representatives to feel lost and confused regarding the estate administration process. A probate attorney can guide personal representatives through the process until the estate is formally closed.
The cost of a probate lawyer in Canton, OH, is strongly tied to the probate case itself, as probate attorneys typically charge by the hour. The more complex a probate case is, the more time it requires and the more expensive it can get.
Feel free to discuss costs when you meet with your Canton probate attorney.
There are many probate attorneys in Canton, OH, but not every probate lawyer is the same.
You can start by asking any trusted family or friends if they have recommendations for a lawyer for probate. If someone has a good experience with a lawyer, that’s a great place to start.
If family and friends cannot recommend a probate lawyer, you can search for an attorney online. Make sure to examine the firm’s website, research the attorneys, and read any client reviews.
Once you have a lawyer you’d like to meet with, schedule a consultation as soon as you’re able.
The probate lawyers at Slater & Zurz have extensive experience guiding clients through the estate administration process. We understand it isn’t easy losing a loved one. Worrying about tackling the tasks associated with their estate can add stress. Let a probate attorney help you with every pertinent step as we get closer to closing your loved one’s estate. Call (330)968-2547 to schedule a meeting with a knowledgeable probate lawyer in Canton.