How to Prepare to Serve as an Executor of a Will in Ohio


1. Locate and Review the Will.

As executor, you should know where the testator’s will is located. (The testator is the person who executes a will.) Preferably, you should also know what the will says, so you can ask the testator questions about his or her intent. If there are any dispositions that may cause family conflict, you can ask the testator to discuss the issues with the family himself or herself. Note, however, that the testator may want the will to remain confidential, in which case you should be prepared to discuss the matter with your family at the appropriate time.

2. Understand Your Responsibilities and the Time Commitment Involved.

Executors are tasked with many responsibilities; the more complex the estate, the more responsibilities you will have as executor. These include, but are not limited to:

  • locating all of the testator’s assets;
  • making a list of all of the testator’s debts;
  • choosing a lawyer to help administer the estate;
  • opening a bank account for the estate;
  • closing the testator’s accounts and handling all monetary transactions with life insurance companies, corporations in which the testator held stock, health insurance companies, etc.; and
  • filing for a taxpayer identification number for the estate.

Your responsibilities will no doubt be more numerous.

As you can see, serving as an executor can easily consume a lot of time, and these duties will be ongoing for at least six to twelve months, perhaps longer if there are unusual issues involved with the estate administration, such as a family or tax dispute.

3. Make a List of the Testator’s Assets and Debts.

One of the most important and most time consuming duties of the executor is compiling a list of all the testator’s assets and debts. If possible, start working with the testator now to make a list of the testator’s assets, including real property, bank accounts, stock, bonds, retirement plans, life insurance policies, and personal belongings. Also compile a list of the testator’s debts; these will have to be paid off during the estate administration.

This is sensitive information, and although the testator must be comfortable with you knowing his or her intimate financial details during estate administration, the testator may be less forthcoming while he or she can still exercise control over their finances. Don’t push. This is something that can be done when the estate is opened; it will merely save you time if the testator is agreeable to starting early.

4. Learn the Testator’s Wishes Regarding Final Arrangements.

If the testator does not have written instructions regarding final arrangements, discuss the matter with the testator, encouraging him or her to put her wishes in writing.

5. Ask the Testator about Personal Belongings

Often the most overlooked assets in wills are the most important assets to the testator’s heirs. Make sure the testator contemplates to whom he or she would like to give various personal belongings. You or the testator may wish to make a list of personal property and begin to match it with different beneficiaries.

6. Talk with an Attorney.

If you have any questions about the estate administration process or your responsibilities as executor, meet with an estate planning and probate lawyer in Ohio. You should also ask the attorney what services and duties the attorney would perform if the attorney were hired to help administer the estate. Many attorneys will help you with, or completely handle, all or nearly all of your responsibilities.

Rely on Us

The Cleveland estate planning law firm of Bart Leonardi, LLC can help you prepare to serve as an executor of estate and answer any questions you may regarding your role as executor. The firm can also handle all your estate administration needs during probate. If you would like to arrange a consultation with estate planning attorney Bart Leonardi [click here].

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