After a person dies, a probate lawyer helps the executor of the estate settle the decedent’s debts and distribute his or her assets.

When a loved one dies most people are not sure how to proceed. Questions usually run through your mind such as: Where do I begin? Did he or she have a will? Am I responsible for the funeral bill? How am I supposed to pay his or her bills? Can I ignore my loved one’s debts? What about the house? These are some of the questions that our experienced probate attorneys and staff hear on a regular basis.

When someone dies, it is important to take a step back, take a deep breath, and first and foremost deal with the burial of your loved one and the beginning of your grieving process. Other than making funeral arrangements for the decedent, there is nothing that can be immediately accomplished until a thorough inventory of the decedent’s assets is made. Determining how something is titled will set the stage for whether or not a probate estate is required.

As with the listing of the assets, it is also just as important to have a complete listing of the decedent’s debts. You may be thinking that you will take care of paying the small bills but wait to have the estate pay the larger bills. It’s best to consult with a good probate lawyer before you pay any of the decedent’s bills.

Individuals will likely have some or all of their assets that must go through the probate process.  The purpose of probate is to ensure that a decedent’s property is distributed according to the terms of his will, or if no will exists, according to Ohio law.  Probate is a court proceeding where the court determines issues such as whether the decedent had a valid will, what assets the decedent owned that must pass through the court process, what debts the decedent owes, and how the decedent’s assets should be distributed.  Certain assets that are transferable on death will not have to go through the probate process. 

Once a probate action is filed, notice will be sent to the heirs, and the probate court will appoint an executor to assist in administering the decedent’s estate.  If there is a will, the decedent will have named an individual of their choosing.  The probate court will typically appoint the individual named in the will unless there is some reason to indicate that they may not be suitable to be the executor.  If the will does not name an executor, the probate court will appoint an individual to serve in that role, which will often be a surviving spouse or close relative.    The executor will carry out any instructions from the probate court and will identify the will beneficiaries and evaluate the claims against the estate for payment. 

The experienced attorneys at Dworken & Bernstein can help you get a complete financial picture of the estate and advise you on how to proceed through the entire probate process. 

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