Top Probate Mistakes (Part 2)

You can check out Part 1 here

Here are few more probate mistakes to avoid:

4. Mishandling Debts and Creditors

In Ohio, creditors have six months from the date of death to file a claim. Generally, no notice is required to be given to creditors unless a summary proceeding is instituted in a small estate. But a summary probate does require notice to be published in a local newspaper. An Executor can shorten the 6-month window by providing actual notice to creditors. The decision to wait to file or to file and provide notice is one that should be done with sound legal advice. Additionally, creditors also have the right to open a probate themselves in order to present their claims. A common trap that Executors or Administrators fall into is paying claims that are not properly presented. This mistake can create liability for the Executor to the beneficiaries of the estate. 

5. Failing to Properly (and Effectively) Communicate with Beneficiaries

Working with the beneficiaries of the estate is not required by law, but failing to keep them informed of developments can be a big mistake. Certain information and notices must be provided to beneficiaries under the law. Beyond what is required of the Executor, poor communication with beneficiaries sometimes leads to unnecessary and expensive litigation at worst, and typically higher legal bills for the estate at best. Remember: the Executor Administrator is not the only one dealing with the loss of a loved one—so, too, are the decedent’s heirs. The probate process is an emotional one, and beneficiaries may feel slighted or may suspect wrongdoing on the part of the Executor if they feel like they are in the dark.

6. Distributing Assets Too Soon

The Executor or Administrator has the legal authority to distribute assets to beneficiaries and to approve and pay (or reject) creditor claims. However, sometimes an estate lacks sufficient assets to honor bequests made in the will and to pay every properly presented debt. In such a situation, creditors must be prioritized according to the law and assets must be dispersed based on that prioritization. If the Executor does not follow the law, just as with paying debts that aren’t properly presented, they could be held personally liable. 

If you’ve been called on to settle the estate of a loved one, you don’t have to do it alone. You can reach out to us to have a conversation with a Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law to see if there’s a way we can help. Let’s Talk!

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