How to Avoid Family Disputes During the Probate Process

Family Disputes During Probate PorcessLosing a loved one is never easy. It is important to make sure that what already has been a tragic event does not turn into a family dispute. This can occur often among families, especially those with high assets and/ or many heirs. There are numerous benefits at the disposal of any family that chooses to retain an experienced probate and estate attorney to help with the probate process. One of those benefits is making sure you and your family do not end up in a dispute over the distribution of probate assets right after a loved one has passed.

An Ohio probate attorney can explain to you and your family the safeguards that are put in place by Ohio law to prevent such an event and show you how to properly follow these safeguards to ensure a quick and painless process. The following article will explain many of these safeguards, how they are executed, and why these are put in place.

Execution of the Will

It is very common for a person who senses that they are coming to the end of their life to execute a new will naming who will be the beneficiaries of his or her estate once that person passes away. It is also very common for that person to do so while in the care of an heir of the estate, perhaps a son or daughter. This situation can often times lead to suspicion from other heirs of the estate, especially if everything or most everything is left to the person caring for the testator. If you are in this situation, it is a good idea to seek the advice of an Ohio probate and estate attorney to draft and oversee the execution of the last will and testament. An attorney will make sure that the testator is competent to execute a will, that all the formalities required to make a valid Ohio will are carried out, and that the testator knows who all the beneficiaries of the estate will be if the person chooses not to execute a last will and testament. For example, it is a requirement in Ohio that the testator execute the will in the conscious presence of two witnesses not listed in the will and not related to the testator by blood or marriage. I often field calls from people who have in their possession a last will and testament executed in front of a notary public, but not properly witnessed in accordance with the laws of the state of Ohio. This will not hold up in court and the actual wishes of the testator may not be carried if this is the case. If you choose not to hire an attorney to assist you with drafting a last will and testament, you could potentially be opening the door to costly litigation amongst family members.

Naming an Executor/ Administrator

Often times a person that passes away leaves a will that names a person he or she trusts as the executor of the estate. An executor is simply a person that executes the provisions of the will in a way that is in accordance with the laws of the testate probate procedure. This person is required to notify every person named in the will, and any person that would inherit from the estate had the person died without a will (also known as intestacy) so that these people are aware that the probate process is beginning. Even though named in the will, this person must also apply to the court to be named executor. If the deceased dies without a will, then any person can apply to become administrator of the estate. This person must obtain a waiver from each person that would inherit from the estate under the Ohio intestacy laws. If a wavier is not obtained from each person, most commonly because no one is in touch with that particular person anymore or this person cannot be found, then the court will hold a hearing on the appointment of the applicant administrator. If the applicant is found to be suitable and competent, he or she is now in charge of administering the probate estate in accordance with Ohio intestacy laws. Ohio courts require this notification process to make sure that the right person to do the job is ultimately the person that is appointed. An administrator/ executor must keep meticulous records of expenditures and must work with many other professionals such as lawyers, accountants, and appraisers to accurately probate the estate.

The last thing anybody wants is for a person who is not suitable or competent to be in charge of this task. This most certainly will lead to mismanagement of the estate and anguish among many other heirs of the estate.

Filing the Inventory

Filing an inventory is the first step that an administrator or executor must do after being appointed by the Court. This consists of identifying all of the probate assets in the deceased person’s estate and notifying the court of what these assets are. These can consist of a home, vehicle(s), bank accounts, pension and life insurance plans which do not name a beneficiary, and personal property of value just to name a few. The filing of the inventory is important to put all the heirs of the estate on notice of what all the assets in the estate are. Filing an inventory and requiring that all the heirs of the estate approves the inventory prevents later fights among siblings and other heirs by putting everyone on notice as to what is in the estate and what will be distributed to each person once the probate process is complete. Leaving assets out of the inventory either purposefully or by accident, many times causes heirs of a probate estate to fight and argue. This is why Ohio Probate Courts require all the heirs to either sign a waiver of notice of hearing on the inventory or require a hearing on the inventory if not all waivers are obtained. This way, family arguments are kept to a minimum, and if something was left out of the inventory, an heir can make an appearance in court and present his evidence to a probate judge or magistrate. Retaining the services of an attorney who can help you identify all the assets of an estate is very important to a successful estate administration.

Accounts

Six months after the appointment of an administrator or executor, the first (or only) account is due for the estate. The account procedure is in place to let the court and all the heirs of the estate know what the status of the estate is and what money has come in and out of the estate since the filing of the inventory. This is important to put each person on notice as to where the proceeds of the estate are going and why money was spent the way it was. As with the appointment of an administrator and the filing of an inventory, a waiver executed by all the heirs of the estate is required in order to get court approval of an account. If a waiver cannot be obtained from all the heirs of the estate, the court will set a hearing date regarding the proposed account and the heirs may file objections to the account if they do not think money of the estate has been expended appropriately. This process cuts down on family arguments and prevents any accusations later on down the road of inappropriate behavior by the trusted executor or administrator.

If you are in the painful process of looking for an Ohio probate attorney to help in the administration of a loved ones estate, do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a free and private consultation.

We can be reached by calling 1-888-467-5105, chatting with one of our 24-hour live chat representatives or sending us a website message.

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