A common question to have when a loved one dies is “How do you become executor of a probate estate?” Unless you have served as a personal representative of an estate in the past, this is a natural question to have.

What Is An Executor Of A Probate Estate?

An executor is the person that is charge of the probate process. The executor is responsible for finding, gathering, and securing assets, notifying heirs and creditors, filing an inventory of those assets with the court, filing tax returns for the estate, paying bills, and reporting to the court all assets that came into the estate, and exactly how they were dispersed.

If the person who passed away (decedent) had a will, it should be filed with the probate court for the county where the decedent lived. Whomever was named in the will to serve as executor will most likely be appointed by the probate court to serve, as long as the person named is “suitable, competent, accepts the appointment, and gives bond if that is required.”

If a person that was named as executor is deceased, in jail, or found to be unsuitable to serve, then the probate court will appoint someone else. If the decedent named co-executors, both of the people named will need to work together and sign all probate documents.

How Is An Executor Different From An Administrator?

An executor is named in the will as the person to be in charge of the probate estate. If the decedent died without a will, then the person appointed by the court to be in charge of the estate is called an Administrator.

Three big reasons that everyone should create a will are 1) an Administrator will have to post a probate bond that might cost several hundred dollars or more, 2) an Administrator must be a resident of Ohio, and 3) an Administrator will likely have to file a costly land sale proceeding if real estate needs to be sold. A land sale takes many months and can cost several thousand dollars in addition to the regular probate costs.

If There Is No Will, Who Will The Court Choose To Be Administrator Of The Estate?

Dying without a will is called “intestacy.” If the decedent dies intestate, Ohio probate law provides for a priority list of who shall serve as Administrator:

  1. Surviving spouse, if a resident of Ohio, then
  2. One of next of kin, resident of Ohio

If there is no surviving spouse, adult child, or other next of kin that is a resident of Ohio and determined to be suitable by the court, the court will appoint someone else, often an Ohio probate attorney.

How Does An Executor Or Administrator Know What To Do In Probate?

An executor or administrator is not expected to know how to navigate the probate process or even the answer to the question “how do you become executor of a probate estate?” They are allowed to hire an Ohio probate lawyer to explain the rules and steps in the probate process, to guide the executor or administrator in all probate steps, prepare the documents for signature, and to file them with the court. The executor or administrator does not need to pay the attorney fees; these will be paid from the funds of the estate, most often when the case is closed.

Need help handling the probate estate? Golowin Legal can help. Call us today at (614) 453-5208 to schedule a meeting or Zoom conference. Visit the Golowin Legal probate page for more information.

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