Probate is the legal process after someone dies, during which the decedent’s property is assessed and distributed. It includes identifying assets, assigning them a value, paying all of the decedent’s debts, and transferring the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
When an estate needs to be settled, family members often have questions about the process. This article will take a closer look at each step and detail how a qualified probate lawyer can help streamline the process and protect family members’ rights.
The probate lawyers at Slater & Zurz have guided our valued clients through the probate process for over 30 years. Suppose a loved one recently died, and you have questions about probate or need to ensure your best interests are protected throughout the process. In that case, we encourage you to contact our office to set up a FREE consultation. (888) 534-4850
The Ohio Probate Process
Typically, there are six steps to probate. In most cases, the executor named in the deceased person’s will assumes the task of handling the probate process. The probate court will appoint an administrator to handle the probate if there isn’t a will.
Although the timeline can vary greatly, the process will include the following steps.
- File the Petition
The named executor will begin by requesting that the probate process be started. He or she does so by filing a petition along with the will and death certificate with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of their death.
When the court receives the information, a hearing will be scheduled during which the judge will officially open the case and either approve the named executor or appoint an administrator if the decedent has died “intestate” or without a will.
- Give Notice to Those Involved
Once probate begins, the executor will notify all interested parties of the decedent’s death and the establishment of probate via written notice. Relevant parties include beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors.
- Inventory the Assets
After all relevant parties have been notified, the executor can begin identifying, collecting, and appraising the decedent’s assets. These include:
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Some life insurance policies
- Real estate
- Motor vehicles, such as cars, motorcycles, and RVs
- Personal property, such as jewelry and household furnishings
Some assets, such as bank and investment accounts, are relatively easy to appraise. However, property, such as jewelry and art collections, can be more difficult to assign a value to. In these cases, executors often hire an appraiser to ensure the property’s value is accurately assessed.
Depending on the size of the estate and the type of assets, this process can take a significant amount of time. Hiring an Ohio probate lawyer can ensure the assets are identified, valued, and managed correctly if it is a large estate or there are especially valuable assets.
- Pay Any Outstanding Debts
Creditors have six months to file a claim for payment. After the six months is up and all of the valid creditor claims have been received, the executor can pay off the decedent’s debt.
Estate debt includes:
- Credit card debt
- Mortgage payments
- Rent due
- Utility bills
- Unpaid child support or alimony
- Property taxes
- State and federal income tax
- Ask the Probate Court to Close the Probate
After the debt has been paid, the executor or administrator of the estate will ask the probate court for permission to close probate and allow him or her to distribute the remaining assets to the estate’s beneficiaries. The court will ask for an accounting of all the activities performed as executors, including details on the estate’s assets and paid debts.
- Distribute the Remaining Assets
Once the court approves the closing of probate, the assets can be distributed. This process will be done according to the terms outlined in the decedent’s will. If there is no will, the assets will be distributed based on Ohio intestacy statutes.
Not all of a decedent’s assets must go through probate before being distributed. Common non-probate assets include:
- Joint bank accounts
- Jointly-owned real estate
- Retirement plans
- Annuities and pensions
- Assets held in a trust
- Any assets with a designated beneficiary
How an Ohio Probate Lawyer Can Help During the Process
Probate can be a tricky process. And as the estate’s executor, you have a lot of responsibility. If you fail to execute each step of the process correctly, it could result in problems down the road – including probate litigation. Issues such as a party contesting the will’s validity might also arise during the probate process.
To ensure the process is done correctly and in accordance with Ohio’s probate statutes, we strongly recommend hiring a probate attorney. They will oversee the process and provide valuable insight into asset appraisals, the payment of debts, and final asset distribution. A probate lawyer will also offer guidance if someone contests the will or disagrees with how the assets are to be distributed.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does probate cost in Ohio?
Probate costs depend on several factors, but the probate process can be pretty expensive. Although the total varies greatly, you can typically expect the following costs: court costs, the administrator or executor’s fees, appraisal fees, and lawyer fees.
How long is the Ohio probate process?
Most probate cases can be completed in around nine months. Because creditors have six months to file a claim, the process will at least take that long. More complicated estates or cases in which someone is contesting the will can take over a year to resolve. In other words, the simpler the estate, the faster the process.
Speak to a Cleveland Probate Attorney to Learn More
The probate process can be either very straightforward or substantially complex. Should issues arise during the process, or you would like expert legal guidance to ensure the process goes smoothly, reach out to Slater & Zurz, Ohio’s premier probate law firm.
With offices in Akron, Canton, and Cleveland, our Ohio probate lawyers are here to assist you. To get started or to learn more about the process, call (888) 534-4850 to arrange your FREE, no-obligation consultation. When experience matters, turn to the skilled and dedicated probate legal team at Slater & Zurz.