After the testator of a will in Ohio dies and leaves assets in the form of bank accounts, getting to those accounts may be necessary early to pay for the funeral and related expenses, such as a funeral dinner. However, it will be necessary for the next of kin to show certain preliminary identification documents. Prior to setting up probate for a formal estate, money can be obtained from bank accounts by the estate's personal representative who is designated in the will.
This works by showing the will, and the preliminary grant of letters made to the person appointed in the will. This will apply to small emergency needs for the same purposes, such as funeral bills or last expenses. The bank or financial company can usually rely on basic state identification, along with the preliminary issuance of letters from the court.
The appointed personal representative will have to be sworn in under oath by the Clerk of Courts and be officially appointed to the office by the Clerk. Usually very quickly, the Clerk will issue a certificate of Letters Testamentary or one called Letters of Administration. The latter certificate is issued where there is no will to be found. In such cases, state law designates the order of kinship that governs who will be appointed. The personal representative, also known as the executor, will accumulate all of the decedent's assets, bank accounts, life insurance, real estate deeds and the like, to assure that the full corpus of the estate is collected.
Where possible, these are turned into cash and placed in an estate checking account. Once the Letters are issued and the representative is sworn in, he or she will also begin a process of collecting and paying all of the decedent's bills. After the bills are paid and professional fees paid, the family members or other heirs will sign releases of the estate and the personal representative. The final proceeds are then distributed, either according to the terms of the will or by the intestate provisions of Ohio state law if there is no will. The whole procedure described may be generally referred to as the probate process.
Source: theglobaldispatch.com, "The best way to describe Letters of Administration", Colin Steinway, Nov. 17, 2017