TRUST AND ESTATE ADMINISTRATION
The probate attorneys at DuPont and Blumenstiel help guide family members, executors, trustees, administrators, heirs, and beneficiaries through the probate process when a loved one dies. We understand that probate can be confusing and stressful, especially when the wishes of the decedent (the person who died) were left unclear. When carrying out a person's final affairs, there is a set process that must happen, usually through the Probate Court.
The Probate Court presides over the administration of estates, guardianships, and estate disputes. It is different than other courts in that it requires a familiarity with how it operates to avoid costly missteps along the way. If you're struggling to manage and distribute a loved one's estate, an experienced probate attorney can help.
Each county has its own probate court. If your loved one lived and died near Dublin, Ohio (where our office is located), that can mean that the proper court is located in Franklin County, Union County, or Madison County.
5 SIGNS YOU NEED TO TALK TO A PROBATE ATTORNEY
You're having trouble getting access to your deceased loved one's bank accounts, titles, and deeds.
You're named an executor of a will, or a trustee of a trust, and don't know what your responsibilities are.
You're angry that you aren't being allowed to see the will and/or believe you have been wrongly written out of it.
Your loved one didn't have a will, and you don't know how to distribute their money and property in the right way.
You're lost in probate paperwork and don't know where to turn.
PROTECT YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR ASSETS
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN EXECUTOR, AN ADMINISTRATOR, AND A TRUSTEE?
An executor takes care of the estate when the decedent had a will.
An administrator takes of the estate when there is no will.
A trustee is in charge of managing assets that are in a trust.
One thing that executors, administrators, and trustees have in common is that they are all fiduciaries. They must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
The estate administration process for executors and administrators is similar.
First, they must investigate what assets the decedent had, and report that back to the Probate Court.
Second, they must pay whatever bills need to be paid out of the estate.
Third, they must distribute what's left in the estate according to the terms of the will, or if there is no will, according to state law.
After the administration is done, they will go back to the Court to prove they have done their duties and pay whatever taxes and filing fees are due.
The estate administration process starts by approaching the probate court and filing certain documents. The most important document you will need is the original death certificate. If there is a will, you will also need to present that to the Court, and identify any interested parties (such as siblings, children, spouse, etc.) Check your county's probate court website to download any forms you may need.
If the decedent did not have a will, everyone with an equal right to represent the estate (such as children, siblings, a spouse, etc.), will need to be notified that they can apply to be the administrator. If everyone else with the right to be administrator waives that right, you will be appointed. If they don't waive their right, the Court will determine who the administrator should be.
Once the court approves your application to be administrator, they will issue a letter of authority saying that you are okay to represent the estate and distribute it.
HOW LONG DOES THE PROBATE PROCESS TAKE?
The probate process usually takes about 6 months but varies based on many factors. The probate process can drag on due to difficulty identifying assets and creditor issues.
DO I NEED A PROBATE ATTORNEY?
In theory, settling an estate should be an easy process. But it's easy to get lost in documents and make a mistake. The rules of the Court are very particular, and sometimes difficult to understand. Unfortunately, the Court does not provide any help through the probate process, so if you choose to go at it alone, you truly are on your own. Oftentimes, it's more costly to clean up honest mistakes than just hiring a probate attorney from the start.
DO I NEED TO GO TO COURT TO...
Get vehicle titles transferred over? It depends on who you are and how much the vehicle is worth. Under Ohio law, a surviving spouse can take up to $60,000 worth of motor vehicles simply by filing an affidavit with the BMV.
Get access to the decedent's bank accounts? If the decedent had a small amount of money in their bank account, that money can be distributed through a shortened form of administration. Once the value of the account passes a certain threshold, a full administration of estate will need to be conducted.
Obtain the decedent's personal belongings? You do not need to involve the probate court if the estate only consists of personal belongings. Personal belongings are items without titles, such as furniture, clothing, jewelry, etc.
Obtain the death benefit from the decedent's life insurance policy? Life insurance policies will typically have a beneficiary designation. If you are the designated beneficiary, all you'll need to do is provide a death certificate to the insurance company and fill out any applications and forms they require.
Obtain what's left in the decedent's retirement account? Retirement accounts will typically have a beneficiary designation. If you are the designated beneficiary, all you'll need to do is provide a death certificate to the company that holds the retirement account and fill out any applications and forms they require.
If you're struggling with managing and distributing your deceased loved one's estate, our experienced Probate Attorneys in Dublin, Ohio can help. Call us at 614-389-9711.
Administering a trust is very different from administering an estate through the Probate Court. Having a trust eliminates many of the delays and costs associated with probate. For example, when someone dies with assets in a trust, those assets are immediately available for distribution. The timing of those distributions is driven completely by the terms of the trust, not the Probate Court.
If you are the trustee of a trust, it's very important to distribute the funds exactly as it is written in the trust. Even honest people may find themselves in an unwanted lawsuit because of accidental self-dealing. If you have questions about how to fulfill your trustee duties, please contact an experienced trust attorney to avoid costly missteps along the way. The Ohio Trust Attorneys at DuPont and Blumenstiel are here to help trustees throughout the trust administration process.
PROBATE LITIGATION - DISPUTING A WILL OR TRUST
Probate litigation involves situations in which there is a dispute over someone's will, trust, or assets. Sometimes, after a loved one passes on, you learn that you've been wrongly written out of the will. If you are being denied access to money and property that are rightfully yours, you have every right to be upset.
The Ohio Probate Litigation attorneys at DuPont and Blumenstiel are here to protect your rights. Our team specializes in resolving estate disputes so that families can grieve and move on. They have considerable experience with:
Disputes over valuation of estate assets
Disputes over interference with an inheritance (also known as Undue Influence)
Improper claims against the estate
When a person can no longer care for themselves and manage their own affairs, a guardian may need to be appointed. Guardians are responsible for protecting the person they have guardianship over (the ward), providing for their day-to-day needs, and in some cases managing their estate.
Guardianship can be a very difficult process. Having the proper advance directives in place before a guardianship situation arises can help you avoid the court process entirely.
The elderly, people with severe disabilities, and minors, may all need a guardian at some point. If you are concerned about a loved one's ability to manage their personal or financial affairs, the Ohio Guardianship Attorneys at DuPont and Blumenstiel can discuss your options with you.
MENTAL HEALTH LAW
We serve as counsel for Mental Health Boards (ADAMHs) throughout the State of Ohio. When someone needs psychiatric treatment and is lacking the insight to seek appropriate care, we assist in the Involuntary Civil Commitment Process.