Most people who are chosen to be executors of a loved one's estate aren't estate planning attorneys. However, they have legal obligations under Ohio probate laws. You don't want to run afoul of those laws.
Unfortunately, some people unknowingly engage in what is known as "executor misconduct." Let's look at some common examples of types of unintentional executor misconduct and how to avoid them.
Failing to record the will
Among the first steps as an executor are locating the will, making sure it's the most current version and filing it with the court. It's best, of course, if the decedent told you where the will and all the documents you'll need are. Unfortunately, sometimes people have to search for it.
If you fail to locate a will, the court will need to declare that the deceased died "intestate." State probate laws then determine how the assets in the estate will be distributed.
Failing to protect the estate's assets
It's the executor's job to locate and secure the assets until they can be properly distributed. It can be easy for people to loot the estate if they have access to the home and/or the deceased person's accounts. As the executor, it's your responsibility under the law not to let that happen.
Failing to manage the estate's finances
Until the estate is settled, it's the executor's job to pay bills. You need to pay all of the estate's bills and debts before you can distribute assets. You'll also be responsible for the estate's taxes and the decedent's final income tax filing. If money is owed to the estate, you're responsible for seeing that this is collected.
It may be helpful to think of managing an estate like managing a business. Don't take anything from it. If the deceased didn't specify how much you'd be paid for your duties as executor, the court will determine that.
If the decedent didn't have an estate planning attorney who can advise you as you carry out your responsibilities, it's wise to seek the help of one. An experienced attorney can help you avoid the above problems and others and help the process of settling the estate proceed as smoothly as possible.