While we’ll likely never know what exactly happens to an individual after death, we can tell you what happens with their belongings that are still here on this earth. It’s part of a process called probate.
Probate is the collecting and settling of the deceased’s assets, debts, taxes, etc. and the distribution of the remaining estate to the inheritors. This is technically overseen by the courts, but their involvement is generally pretty minor.
Most of probate is paperwork which is handled by attorneys, accountants, and the executor. We’ll get to that in a minute. First, we start with the will.
Before the probate process can truly start, the will must be found. For those who have wills, this isn’t difficult. If there’s no will, things can get a little more complicated, and the courts will become more involved.
As long as there’s a will though, the process of settling the estate can begin. This will take place in whatever county the deceased resided. Even if they have assets in multiple areas, the whole estate can be settled in one county. The will will likely name someone as executor over the estate. This person will take on the responsibility of overseeing the probate process. Most likely, it will be a child, spouse, or close friend.
Due to the complexity involved in settling an estate, the executor is typically assisted by a probate attorney.
If someone is named executor, they don’t have to accept. It is a fair amount of responsibility, after all. Should they choose to turn down the position, or should an executor not be named, others close to the deceased may apply for the position. The court will then decide.
When the will has been verified and an executor has been appointed, there will be a probate hearing. This is typically an informal affair that the executor doesn’t have to be present for. This will allow others to protest the appointed executor or the validity of the will itself.
Such protests, however, are rare.
Before the hearing, inheritors will be notified of the death and their place in the will. They won’t actually be given their inheritance at this point. Rather, this is in case they have any questions or objections to the situation.
Often times, the executor will let any disinherited individuals know as well. That way, if the disinherited try to cause trouble, it’ll happen sooner rather than later.
Before any inheritance can be given, the executor must pay any taxes and settle any remaining debts. Typically, they will open a new bank account for the estate, and pool all resources there. Once that’s taken care of, the distribution of the remaining inheritance may be given to the appropriate persons.
With the taxes paid, debts settled, assets liquidated, and inheritance given out, the estate can officially be closed. The executor is now free from their duties.
Fun fact: wills are public record, meaning anyone can view them regardless of whether they share any connection to the deceased.
You’ve probably seen a movie or a show where a group of people sit down in a room while a will is read out loud. It might make for a dramatic turn in a story, but it’s also entirely fictional. There may have been a time where wills were read aloud in a similar fashion, it hasn’t been that way for a long while.
Instead, the inheritors are notified through individually.
Whether you’re an executor, an inheritor, or you’re trying to organize your own estate, a probate attorney is irreplaceable in guiding you through the process. For assistance in probate and family law in Springfield, Ohio, contact the team at Michael T Edwards.