By Lauren Cooper
A few months ago Brenda and Sarah came in to discuss what needed to be done following the death of their father, George. Brenda was retired and lived close to George, so she had always been the one who had handled his affairs. Although Sarah was willing to help as needed, she worked full time as a doctor and lived on the other side of the state of Ohio. It was no surprise to them therefore that George’s Last Will and Testament appointed Brenda as the Executrix to handle the administration of his estate. What they did not expect was that the probate court would say that Brenda was unfit to administer the estate because she lived in the state of Kentucky.
In accordance with the county’s regulations, the Magistrate decided that Brenda could not be Executrix of George’s estate, even though Brenda lived only thirty minutes away from the county where George lived, because she was not a resident of the State of Ohio. The Court, against George’s wishes as set forth in his Last Will and Testament, appointed Sarah as the Executor and she begrudgingly had to manage the time consuming responsibilities of being Executrix of the Estate. While state law does not prohibit non-residents of Ohio from serving as Executors, many courts apply this regulation as a local rule. Some probate courts that do allow non-residents to serve usually impose additional regulations on their appointment. These regulations might require the out of state Executor to obtain bond or force the Executor to transfer all assets of the estate to a bank within the boundaries of the County.
The situation that happened to George’s family was unfortunate not only because of the inconvenience that it caused, but also because it could have been so easily avoided if George had established a Living Trust. Because the administration of a Living Trust is private, that is, not monitored by the probate court, it is not subject to the county’s local rules that regulate who is considered to be an appropriate Fiduciary. A Living Trust not only makes the process of administering an estate easier for whomever you appoint, but also can give you the piece of mind that no magistrate can usurp your wishes in regards to whom you appoint to handle your affairs after you pass away.