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The probate court often validates or invalidates a Will. The probate process fulfills several other functions as well including supervising the “executor,” the person named to make sure the final requests of the deceased are satisfied according to the Will.
If a person dies without a Will or estate plan, the probate court supervises the person who carries out the wishes of the deceased according to rules set by Ohio law. This person is known as the “administrator” and has the same basic duties as the executor.
If you are dealing with the death of a family member who may or may not have prepared a Will, it is possible you are somewhat “in the dark” about what to do. There is someone who can help shed the light on your situation and help you discover any financial arrangements your deceased relative may have made in advance. A probate attorney at Slater & Zurz LLP will set up a preliminary consultation (free of charge) to help you get started. You can contact the law firm at 1-888-534-4850.
Why Probate law exists
The main reason this special division of the Ohio courts has been established for Wills and Estates is to ensure payment of creditors and taxes before distribution of the deceased’s assets. Probate also seeks to ensure the correct people are receiving the assets. However, both of these objectives can be fulfilled more efficiently and with more control, if the decedent has established one or more Trusts.
Challenges to the validity of a Will are made during probate. Parties who have a monetary interest or “stake in the matter” are the only ones who can present a complaint to the court. They are referred to as “interested parties.”
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Steps in the typical probate process
- The executor, a relative of the deceased, or a creditor files a petition with the probate court to begin the process—known as “opening the probate estate.”
- The probate court formally appoints the executor or names an administrator if no will exists or the executor named declines to serves or is unable to
- The executor formally notifies the spouse of the deceased, the next of kin and other beneficiaries of the death and that the estate has been opened.
- The executor inventories all assets and debts of the estate. The final inventory must be filed with the court. If the value of certain property is not readily ascertainable, the executor must have a qualified appraiser value it.
- The interested parties must be given notice of the filing of the inventory and the probate court must then approve it.
- The executor or administrator will pay lawful bills and distribute assets according to the Will or Statute.
- The executor must file a final account with the probate court and give notice to all interested parties. The probate court will schedule a hearing, and if there are no objections filed to the final account, it will approve it and close the estate.
How long Probate Takes with a Will or Without
If the deceased was “intestate” (did not have a Will), or whether he or she had a valid Will, the probate process takes about a year, or possibly less, if everything goes relatively smoothly. There is a required waiting period to allow any creditors to file claims against the estate. If someone challenges the Will, or how assets are being divided, or if the estate is very large or very complex, it can take more time.
Difficult to locate heirs, hard-to-sell assets, family quarrels or liquid estates (there is more owed than creditors listed) can also create a lot of work and make probate take longer.
The following are not subject to the administration of the probate court and pass “outside of probate” in Ohio going automatically to a joint owner or beneficiary:
- Joint tenants with designated beneficiaries
- Insurance policies with designated beneficiaries
- Payable on death (POD) accounts
- Retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries
- Assets in Trusts governed by terms of the Trust
- Financial accounts with a beneficiary designation
If your relative has used any of these vehicles to avoid probate or to ensure quicker access to monies left behind, you may want to ask a probate lawyer how you should go about claiming ownership of these funds.
Benefits of Hiring Slater & Zurz LLP for your Probate Matters
As you can see, probate-related issues can get complicated. Conflicts and disputes are not uncommon and many concern money. This is why if you are an heir or beneficiary, you want a law firm whose attorneys will fight for you and deliver for you at the right moment.
- The estate planning attorneys at Slater & Zurz LLP can help with all of the elements of the probate process that you become involved in. They are proficient in every probate area listed above and others that haven’t been discussed here. They work hard to get the interested parties to cooperate and resolve any conflicts so that delays are minimal.
- Experience matters. We have represented people in more than 30,000 cases across the state of Ohio including numerous probate law cases.
- We can save you money. If you are preparing a Will, we can save you worry about your loved ones. Many people are unaware of the power of probate tools and devices. We want to leave
you feeling comfortable that when you are gone, your family will be taken care of well and will reap the benefits of your years of hard work and good estate planning without waiting for an
undue length of time to receive what is due them.
Where can I find Slater & Zurz LLP?
Slater & Zurz LLP has conveniently-located offices in Akron, Columbus, Cleveland, Canton, Cincinnati, Ohio. Arrangements can be made to meet with a Slater & Zurz personal injury attorney in other locations throughout Ohio if that is more accommodating.