What happens if the executor of a will dies?

On Behalf of | Aug 31, 2023 | Estate Planning And Administration |

Appointing an executor is an important step when setting up your will in Ohio. An executor is the person who administers your estate according to the terms of your will after you pass away.

Administering an estate comes with many responsibilities. The executor is responsible for identifying, locating and valuing all your assets and distributing them to your heirs.

An executor must also pay any of your outstanding debts using estate assets or funds, file a final tax return for you if necessary and take care of all other administrative tasks associated with finalizing and closing out your estate.

If this sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Being an executor is often a complex process that requires focus, hard work and attention to detail. Therefore, you should choose an executor that you feel can handle the job.

The backup executor

But what happens if an executor passes away themselves during the estate administration process? Although the executor passing away can complicate the process, your estate administration will likely still be able to be completed.

Ideally, the will names a backup executor, but sometimes that is not done, or the backup executor is no longer available.

Ohio law states that when a sole executor or administrator of an estate passes away before the estate administration is complete, the probate court appoints someone else to fill the role through serving them with letters of administration. These are letters officially giving them authority to act as estate executor.

Requirements to serve as an executor

The person selected is usually a surviving spouse or next of kin. They must be suitable and qualified to serve as an executor. In Ohio, this means that they are at least 18 years old and of sound mind, meaning that they have not been judged incapacitated by a court.

Sometimes interested parties can petition to take over as executor. The court can analyze the petition and decide whether to select them or appoint someone else.

To avoid this situation, it is best to appoint an executor and a backup executor when you draft your will. This avoids the risk of a court appointing an executor that you would not have approved of or trusted to complete the estate administration process successfully.

When you are appointed executor

Perhaps you are appointed an executor of someone’s estate because the original executor passed away. You may have many questions about what you are supposed to do and feel overwhelmed and confused, especially since you are not starting the process from the beginning.

This is understandable, since serving as an executor is a major responsibility. Luckily, there are professionals experienced with the estate administration process who can help.

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