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Probate, Estate & Trust Administration

 

When is the “Reading of the Will”

 

As an attorney, I love the dramatic effect the formal reading of the Last Will and Testament has in a movie. I recently re-watched the movie Knives Out (2019) and enjoyed the scene where the rich patriarch’s Last Will and Testament was read to the family. The children and grandchildren were appalled to learn that the family was being cut off from Harlan Thrombey’s fortune and that the entire estate was left to Marta, Harlan’s private nurse.

 

In the real world, there is no legal requirement that a Last Will and Testament be read aloud or even reviewed with the family. So, what should you do when a loved one passes away? Make an appointment with an experienced Probate, Estate and Trust Administration attorney to review estate planning documents and create a game plan to manage the assets of the deceased.

 

Christopher M. Alexander has represented individuals and families for 25 years. If a family member dies and you have questions about what your next steps should be, Christopher M. Alexander will assist you in reviewing the deceased’s estate planning documents to ensure you understand your legal obligations now and in the future. Contact Christopher M. Alexander, Esq. at (513) 228–1100 or chris@alexander-legal.com.

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Estate Administration and Trust Administration

 

After a loved one passes away, their assets will need to be gathered, business affairs settled, debts paid, necessary tax returns filed, and assets distributed as directed in their estate planning documents. On behalf of the decedent, these steps will be taken by a person acting in a fiduciary capacity, either as an executor/administrator appointed by the probate court or as a trustee designated in the decedent’s Trust Agreement.

 

If you choose to aid your deceased family member through Probate, Estate or Trust Administration, you will need to become familiar with the following terms:

 

Decedent:        A person who has died.

 

Fiduciary:        A Fiduciary is legally obligated to act for the benefit of another. Trustees, Executors, and Administrators are all fiduciaries.

 

Executor:         An Executor settles the estate of a decedent according to the terms of the Last Will and Testament.

 

Administrator:             If there is no Last Will and Testament, an Administrator settles the estate of a decedent in accordance with the Ohio Statute of Descent and Distribution.

 

Grantor:           A Grantor transfers property to a Trustee to hold subject to the terms of a Trust Agreement. A Grantor is also commonly referred to as a Settlor, Trustmaker and/or Trustor.

 

Beneficiary:    A person for whose benefit a Last Will and Testament or Trust Agreement was made.

 

Trustee:           A Trustee holds legal title to property for the benefit of another according to the terms of the Trust Agreement.

Should I Accept Appointment as a Fiduciary

 

Many people believe that when they are appointed as a fiduciary, they (the fiduciary) have the ability to make decisions regarding the distribution of the decedent’s assets. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the fiduciary, you are legally obligated to manage and distribute the decedent's assets in accordance with his or her wishes as set forth in estate planning documents.

 

Determining whether to serve as a fiduciary depends upon many personal factors such as your emotional and mental well-being relative to the decedent, day-to-day responsibilities you may have for family and work, and the size of the estate and complexity of its financial affairs. In deciding whether to accept an appointment as a fiduciary, take special care to read the Last Will and Testament, Trust Agreement and any other estate planning documents carefully to ensure you understand your obligations now and in the future.

 

Example:         Your sister recently passed away unexpectedly and leaves behind a 17-year-old son. If your sister’s Trust Agreement reads “my trustee shall distribute such trust income and principal as he/she believes is necessary for the education and support of my son until he reaches age 25.”

 

Will you be comfortable making these types of decisions for your nephew over the next 8 years?

 

Is this the type of relationship you want to have with your sister’s only son until he turns 25?

 

Are you prepared to decide between private school tuition and in-state public school tuition?

 

Purchasing a new computer likely makes sense, but will you pay for spring break vacation?

 

In most instances, a fiduciary will retain a Probate, Estate and Trust Administration attorney to guide them through the performance of their duties, at least initially. An experienced attorney's advice and assistance will be helpful to ensure a full understanding of the Last Will and Testament, Trust Agreement and other estate planning documents.

Christopher M. Alexander has represented individuals and families through Probate, Estate Administration and Trust Administration for 25 years. Before accepting appointment as a fiduciary, contact Christopher M. Alexander to guide you through the decedent’s estate planning documents to ensure you understand your legal obligations now and in the future. Contact Christopher M. Alexander, Esq. at (513) 228–1100 or chris@alexander-legal.com.

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