Trying to manage your assets can be a major challenge in life, and it can become even more complicated after death. I’ve often met with families who do not realize complexities that come in managing the assets of a deceased loved one.
The families I’ve spoken to often find out the deceased didn't properly prepare for the distribution of these assets in advance. As I discuss the ins and outs of probate with the family, I share tid-bits of advice from what I’ve learned in over the years in trying probate cases.
Here are three tips that can help you and your family when it comes to managing a loved one’s assets after their passing.
1. Understand that asset management and distribution takes time.
One of the big misconceptions about managing family assets is that it can get done quickly. We spend our lives accumulating assets, and something that took a lifetime to build, cannot be easily undone in matter of days, or even a few weeks.
Here in Ohio, there are laws to abide by when it comes to the assets of the deceased. If a will was in place, then you’ll have to go to probate court in order to be granted control of the assets. If the assets were placed in a trust, the procedure is a bit different, and less time consuming than probate.
Still, asset management will take some time. Under probate law, an inventory of the assets must be taken first. The wishes of the deceased are to be honored, whether that means distributing as outlined, or selling the assets and distributing the funds earned among family members.
If a loved one chooses you as the executor, you’ll want to set expectations with family members and loved ones from the beginning.
2. Set Ground Rules From the Beginning
I always advise that the executor of a will or the trustee of a trust set up a family meeting to set expectations and ground rules. Serving as the executor or trustee can be an emotionally difficult experience. Not only are you grieving for loss, but you are also acting as a rock and confidant for other family members.
In this family meeting, you should:
- Set ground rules early about asset management to avoid confusion. Be sure they know that none of the assets can be taken until you approve or probate is complete or the trust has been fully executed as your loved one desired.
- Talk about a timeline for receiving assets. Encourage them to be patient.
- Discuss assets. If one of the family members knows about other assets, now is not the time to keep secrets. Discuss the possibility of a financial asset search, when assets are unknown.
- Ask if someone would like to help you serve as the executor or trustee. You’ll need help and support.
3. Hire an Estate Lawyer
When serving as the executor of an estate, I highly recommend working with an estate planning and probate attorney.
Navigating probate and the distribution of assets can be emotionally difficult, and even more so when you live at a distance. As a probate attorney in Columbus, Ohio, I have often worked with clients who lived out of state and needed a local lawyer to manage probate for them.
Additionally, an estate lawyer can act as a reasonable voice in difficult family discussions about who inherits assets.
In the chance that your loved one did not have a will or trust in place, survivors must go to probate court to gain access to the assets.
A probate lawyer can help in this process, including opening access to accounts with a death certificate and Letter of Authority (which is the court order allowing the administrator to take charge.) If you so choose, you can also name your probate attorney as the administrator so they can pay the bills of a deceased family member for any remaining debts.
For more on probate, contact us at Port Legal for a no-obligation free consultation. Our consultations are designed to help you make the best decision for you and your family.