What is Ohio probate? 15 things you should know.
Let’s talk about Ohio Probate:
- Probate is the process of settling/administering and handling property (both real estate and intangible property such as cash, investments, etc) that someone leaves behind when they die. Probate also involves payment of all proper/legitimate claims and debts that the person may also have left behind that were unresolved at the time of death.
- A probate lawyer can assist with handling both probate property (meaning property that is required to pass through the probate process and be approved for settlement with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived), as well as non-probate property (meaning things like life insurance, retirement accounts, revocable living trusts or other types of trusts, and other similar assets that carry named beneficiaries but are not required to pass through for approval by the probate court).
- Probating a deceased person’s property may be handled by an administrator (which is the title given to someone who handles an estate where the person died intestate, meaning without a will), or by the executor (which is the title given to someone who handles an estate where the person died testate, meaning with a will). Collectively, administrator/executor carry the general title “fiduciary”.
- If the person died intestate, someone seeking to be an administrator will have to get court approval to be appointed to act as the deceased person’s fiduciary, a title that requires the utmost duty of care and loyalty to protect the deceased person’s affairs and to ensure that all legal debts and claims are paid, and that beneficiaries entitled to inherit from the deceased person under the statutes of descent and distribution are paid. An administrator has significant responsibilities and will also be required to post a fiduciary bond, which essentially ensures that the administrator has sufficient funds, as secured through the bond/insurance company to cover the fiduciaries duties and ensure fiduciary does not improperly take off with estate monies.
- If the person died testate, someone seeking to be an executor will be named in the deceased person’s will as the person that the decedent wanted to handle administering his estate. Sometimes, in the case of a very old will or the geographic concerns, an executor may not wish to serve as executor, so another person may be appointed upon such request, subject to court approval.
- An executor may also be required to post bond like an administrator, but the language of the will permits an exception to this requirement if the will so states. Acquiring a bond can be difficult (often for credit issues of the executor/administrator, or due to the size of the estate requiring a larger bond), so a will that waives bond is very helpful to the executor.
- A fiduciary must determine which court has jurisdiction over the decedent’s estate. Ohio probate is proper in the county in which the decedent lived. If the decedent owned real estate in another state outside of Ohio, probate would also need to be filed in the additional state to handle that real estate.
- A fiduciary must complete various forms to begin the probate process and must collect certified copies of the death certificate. The first step in filing is to pay a filing fee (generally between $200 and $300) and file an Application for Probate and an Application for Authority to Administer the Estate, and apply as either the Administrator or Executor, depending on whether there is a will.
- The fiduciary then must determine who heirs are in the estate and who is entitled to notice of opening the estate and probate of the will (if applicable), subject to the Ohio Revised Code and the Statute of Decent and Distribution. Knowing who to notify can be complicated and an Ohio Probate attorney is crucial.
- The fiduciary must determine the names, ages, addresses and degree of relationship of all heirs and, if there is a will, all beneficiaries named in the will.
- Once the heirs are determined they must be formally served with notice of the proceeding/case and in intestate estates the heirs must also sign a Waiver of Right to Administer.
- Eventually the fiduciary will receive Letters of Authority to prove that person has the legal authority to handle all the deceased person’s affairs and settle all accounts.
- The fiduciary is subject to strict form requirements, strict deadline requirements, and the local rules vary from county to county. Because of these complexities, hiring an Ohio probate lawyer makes an extraordinary difference.
- The Ohio probate lawyer’s fees may vary, but in many counties, the local rules (as approved by the Ohio Supreme court) set percentages for fees based upon the value of various assets in the estate.
- For estates that are not insolvent, the executor generally does not pay the Ohio probate lawyer directly, but the lawyer is paid from estate assets at the end of the case when all work is completed and all accounts have been settled and beneficiaries/heirs have received their shares.
This is an advertisement and does not constitute legal advice for you or your matter. If you have specific questions about how this information applies to you, you should seek the advice of an attorney.