An Estate Without a Will

A will is a legal document used by an individual to express their wishes for their assets upon death. Although having a will in place is not necessary, it is helpful for informing your heirs of how you wish them to proceed upon your death. Not having a will in place to determine the distribution of your assets upon death is referred to as “intestate.”

When someone dies with a will in place, the named executor of the estate is responsible for the decedent’s financial affairs. When someone dies intestate, the probate court will appoint an administrator of the estate to handle the decedent’s financial affairs. Ohio law has specific requirements and orders to follow to determine who shall be appointed as the administrator. Typically the court will first look for a surviving spouse. If no surviving spouse is applicable the court will move forward with the next of kin. Once the court has found an administrator he or she must sign an acceptance letter before moving forward.

By accepting the position of administrator for an intestate estate you will be taking on several responsibilities. The administrator is responsible for inventory and appraisal, paying debts and expenses and collecting and distributing assets. When conducting inventory and appraisal the administrator must identify the decedent’s assets and the fair market value of those assets. Once the inventory and appraisals have been concluded, the administrator collects the assets.

With all assets appraised and collected the administrator is responsible for paying any outstanding debts of the decedent. Any existing creditors of the decedent will have six months to make claims against the estate. Finally, once all debts have been paid, the administrator is able to distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the court. The court has a specific statute they utilize to determine the distribution of the decedent’s assets commonly referred to as the intestacy statute.  It is important that the administrator proceeds through distribution with caution. An administrator can be held personally liable for any assets that are wrongfully distributed

The process of handling an intestate estate is long and complicated and can cause things to be distributed against your wishes. You can avoid this long, complicated process by having your will prepared in advance. Contact our office to speak with an attorney about having a will prepared on your behalf.