When a close family member or relative passes, it may become necessary to open a probate case in order to address the decedent’s unresolved affairs. The amount of assets and obligations the decedent left behind, along with the existence of a will or estate plan and the number of family members or beneficiaries survive the decedent, will all impact how long the probate process might last.
Regardless of the complexity of a decedent’s estate, though, taking certain preparatory steps before opening a probate case might help make the process smoother.
Gather These Items Before Filing Probate
It is natural and understandable to want to wrap up your loved one’s affairs as quickly as possible. Rushing into probate by opening a case as quickly as possible may not be the best path toward achieving that goal, though. Gathering information and documents ahead of time, before you open a probate case, will likely save you time and effort in the end.
- Will or estate plan. Obviously, if the decedent had created a will or other estate plan, it will be extremely helpful to locate these documents before commencing the probate process. One of the first documents you would need to file in a new probate case is the decedent’s will, and failing to timely do so may lead to difficulties in administering the estate properly (and, potentially, sanctions or penalties for you and any heirs and beneficiaries).
- Contact information for creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries. Once the probate case commences, notice will need to be provided to the decedent’s heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors. If the decedent’s immediate family is quite large, if the decedent intended to benefit numerous people or entities, or if the decedent had a considerable number of debts, locating the people that must be notified of the probate case can take some time. Gathering this information ahead of time, by contrast, can help speed the process of notifying those individuals, businesses, and other entities which are entitled to notification in a probate case.
- Assets owned by the decedent. Early on in a probate case, the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate will need to file a list of the estate’s assets to the court and provide copies to the heirs and beneficiaries. It is from these assets that the lawful claims of creditors will be paid and the heirs and beneficiaries will receive their inheritance or bequests. It may take some time for the executor or administrator to go through the decedent’s affairs and identify all of the decedent’s assets. However, taking a bit of time at the start – even before filing the probate case – can give the executor or administrator a better idea of how best to handle the decedent’s estate.
Contacting a Qualified Ohio Probate Attorney Should Be Your First Step
For those without legal training or experience in handling a deceased loved one’s estate, it may be particularly helpful to consult with an experienced Ohio probate lawyer as soon as possible. If you have not been able to locate a will or information on the decedent’s assets, a lawyer may be able to assist you in finding what you will need to properly administer the estate. Even for those who are familiar with the probate process, an attorney may be able to help you navigate the probate process more swiftly.
Dawes Legal, LLC is a Columbus-based probate law firm providing services to executors, administrators, heirs, beneficiaries, and other interested parties at all stages of the probate process. Call us at (614) 733-9999 and schedule an initial consultation to learn more about what we can do for you.