Probate is a court-managed proceeding wherein a person’s assets are retitled and distributed after death. Assets are distributed as mandated in the decedent’s will or, if there is not a will, according to what is known in legal circles as the law of intestacy. Basically, the law of intestacy means that assets are distributed according to guidelines established by the state of Ohio.

Much of our practice is devoted to helping clients avoid probate entirely, through the use of trusts and other tools. However, families often hire us to assist them with probate and the estate settlement process. While every estate is different, here is a partial list of the duties required to settle a “typical” estate:

  • Locate and file the decedent’s will (if he or she had one) with the local court
  • File necessary probate documents with the court
  • Locate, inventory, custody, close and transfer personal assets and accounts
  • Appraise and determine the value of all assets
  • Ascertain, and then notify, all known creditors of the estate
  • Make payments to creditors, discharge the decedent’s obligations and obtain creditor releases
  • Process and obtain life insurance death benefits, if any
  • Secure the decedent’s residence and tangible personal property
  • File tax returns (federal and Ohio) and make appropriate tax elections
  • Pay estate taxes and final personal income taxes, if any
  • Obtain tax releases and closing letters from the IRS, local courts and state taxing authorities
  • Make specific bequests, together with partial and final distributions, to beneficiaries.
  • Provide detailed accounting to beneficiaries and the local court

Accomplishing all of this would be hard enough on its own. When you factor in the grief that comes with losing a loved one, the experience can seem overwhelming. At Bixler Moore, LLC, we can guide you through the process from beginning to end, and make it as stress-free as possible. Remember: You are not alone during this difficult time. We invite you to call us to schedule a personal meeting.

Trust Administration

Many families think that once they have created a trust all of their estate settlement problems will be solved. While trusts are a powerful estate planning tool, they must be properly administered for the trust maker’s wishes to be carried out.

Administering a trust requires a wide range of duties, including:

  • Filings with the court, the IRS and state taxing authorities
  • Notifying applicable individuals in accordance with the law
  • Opening bank accounts
  • Settling creditor claims
  • Paying the decedent’s final expenses
  • Arranging for the sale of assets
  • And more

In addition, proper accounting must be maintained throughout the process and then provided to beneficiaries of the trust.

It is important to know that a trustee can be subject to severe penalties, both financial and legal, for failing to properly administer a trust. If you have been asked to serve as trustee, we can explain the risks involved and help you decide if you have the time and experience to administer the trust. If not, we can help you choose the ideal trustee, and work closely with your existing advisors to ensure all directives of the trust are carried out.

If you have been asked to administer a trust, contact us today to schedule a personal meeting. One of our firm’s partners, Edgar Moore, is Certified as a Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Administration by the Ohio State Bar Association. We are here to guide you through every aspect of the process during this difficult time in your life.