We get a lot of questions from people about the beginning of the estate administration process. We’ve provided some of the most common questions and the answers as a resource here for you.

1.         How do I pay for the funeral expenses?

Payment of the funeral expenses will depend on a number of factors. The most ideal way for the payment of these expenses is for them to be pre-paid when your loved one pre-plans their funeral. If that wasn’t done, then the bill will have to be paid from another source, such as any non-probate assets (a joint account, for example) or a life insurance death benefit. If these aren’t available, the beneficiaries can pay the bill personally and then be reimbursed by the Estate once the Executor has been appointed and the Estate assets are accessible.

2.         Do I need to use the same attorney who prepared the Will to help me administer the Estate?

No. You’re free to choose any attorney to help you through this process. Many times, the attorney who prepared the Will has little or no experience administering estates, or that attorney has either retired, died, or moved away. You should make sure that the attorney you hire to assist you has the knowledge and experience of actually working with estates to be able to guide and protect you throughout the process.

3.         What happens if someone dies without a Will?

If a person dies “intestate” (without a Will), then state law dictates how the estate assets should be distributed. Contrary to what some people believe, the assets don’t end up going to the State. The distribution will be to the decedent’s “heirs at law” (spouse, kids, etc. as applicable) in amounts and percentages as determined by the law. The Probate procedures are more complicated and generally take longer if there’s no Will.

4.         Can I still use the Power of Attorney?

No. When a person dies, the power of attorney immediately terminates and cannot be used any longer.

5.         Can I access the safety deposit box?

Unless you’re already listed on the box rental agreement as an authorized user of the box, you won’t be able to access the deceased’s safety deposit box until after you are appointed Executor by the Probate Court. Unfortunately, some people keep their original Will in their safety deposit box, which creates some access problems (you can’t get access to the box until you are the Executor, and you can’t be appointed Executor until after you have the original Will that’s in the box).

6.         What if the person who is named as the Executor in the Will is not willing or able to serve?

Generally there are alternate Executors named in the Will (“I appoint Bill to be my Executor. If Bill is not willing or able to serve, then I appoint Sally.”) If Bill is already deceased, then Sally would apply to be appointed Executor and file a copy of Bill’s death certificate to prove he cannot serve. If Bill is still alive but otherwise unable or unwilling to serve, then Sally would apply, and Bill would sign a probate form waiving his right to serve. If there are no named alternate Executors who are able and willing to serve, then any “suitable person” can apply to be appointed Executor.

7.         Will I be personally responsible for the debts of the decedent?

Generally, the answer to this question is “no.” As long as you don’t do anything improper, you won’t be personally responsible for paying the decedent’s debts. Those debts are paid from the assets of the estate, and if there are more debts than assets (if the estate is “insolvent”), then the estate’s assets will be distributed in accordance with a very specific procedure set forth in Ohio law.

Chamberlain Law Group is here to help you through the estate administration process. Contact us at 419-872-7670 or request an appointment through our website to set up an appointment to discuss your estate administration needs.