Young Male Lawyer Visiting Old Man in Testament Concept


Gregory L. Williams Nov. 14, 2021

Approximately 50,000 estates are filed each year in the Probate Division of Ohio’s Courts of Common Pleas. The substance of the estates, decedents, and heirs vary widely. However, they all share the need for an executor to administer them.

Many of the estates are filed by the executor named by the decedent in a will. Where there is no will, and therefore no executor, the probate court will appoint someone to serve. It is a serious duty entrusted to executors. If you have been named one, you should understand the gravity of this role.

I encourage clients in and around Columbus, Ohio, to plan, protect, and provide through thoughtful estate planning. If you have been named the executor of an estate, you bear the responsibility of protecting the assets of the estate for the benefit of those it provides for. With my legal experience, I can help you understand this role.

What Is an Executor?

The executor is the person named in a will or appointed by the court to protect, manage, and preserve the assets of a decedent’s estate until obligations are paid and the rest is distributed among the beneficiaries as directed in the will or by the laws of intestate succession.

In Ohio, the estate representative must be 18 or older and of sound mind to be eligible to serve. Unlike many other states, an executor can have a felony conviction on their record and still serve. The executor should also be a resident of the state and reside in close proximity of the probate court and the assets of the estate to facilitate administration. A non-resident executor may be appointed under certain circumstances.

Under Ohio law, an executor is allowed to resign, although doing so requires an order issued by the court. There are also grounds for the removal of the executor. Grounds include failing to file inventories and accounting in a timely manner, or if they are habitually drunk, incompetent, commit fraud, neglect their duties as executor, or violate their fiduciary responsibilities in any manner.

What Are the Executor’s Roles and Responsibilities?

The executor’s fiduciary responsibilities include conducting a comprehensive inventory of the estate’s assets and liabilities, paying debts and taxes, liquidating assets of the estate if necessary, and distributing the balance of the estate to its beneficiaries as directed in the will. If there is no will, the court-appointed executor will distribute the residual of the estate to the heirs determined by Ohio’s laws of intestate succession.

Until the estate is disposed of, the executor is charged with protecting its assets. This includes keeping personal property of the decedent intact by prohibiting family members from taking items from the residence. If there is real property or vehicles involved, the executor must keep them maintained and secured and ensure insurance and taxes are timely paid. If the estate includes investments, the executor should protect them but is not required to alter investment strategies to garner higher yields for the estate. The executor does, however, bear a fiduciary obligation to move suspicious investments to preserve their value.

Do Executors Receive Compensation in Ohio?

Executors are prohibited from profiting personally from the estate they administer. That said, Ohio law does allow them to be paid fees based on the value of the estate. They may collect a percentage of all personal property, income, and real estate they sell ranging from 2% to 4%, depending on the value. They are also allowed to collect 1% of all property not sold but distributed. They can charge no other fees for their services.

Experienced Ohio Estate Planning Attorney

If you have been named the executor of an estate, it would be wise to hire an attorney to provide legal counsel throughout the administration. A missed deadline or compliance violation could make you personally responsible for damages.

The court will typically approve payment of attorney’s fees from the estate, as well as other costs of administration. If the estate is large, complex, or is being challenged, an executor will benefit from legal counsel.

We assist clients with a broad range of estate planning needs, including estate administration. If you have been named the executor of an estate in Columbus or anywhere in Central Ohio, call me to schedule an appointment.

A great deal of trust has been placed in you. Let us help. Call today.