When a loved one dies, and their estate must go through probate, family members are typically left with many questions, such as who will inherit the estate? How long will the process take? How much will it cost?
In this article, we aim to remove the uncertainty many loved ones feel after learning their family member’s estate must enter probate by answering all these questions and more.
If your loved one died with or without a will in place and would like to learn more about the Ohio probate process, we encourage you to reach out to our team of experienced Akron probate lawyers at Slater & Zurz. Call (888) 534-4850 today to arrange a free consultation.
What is Probate?
Probate refers to the court-supervised legal process that is often required to administer the distribution of a deceased individual’s estate. If the decedent died with a will, the probate court will need to determine its validity and authenticity. During the probate process, the court will appoint an executor, locate and value the deceased person’s assets, pay any outstanding debts out of the estate, and distribute the remaining assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
Probate laws vary from state to state. In Ohio, some alternatives to probate and some simplified versions of the process exist.
What is an “Intestate Estate?”
When an individual dies without a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate.” Not having a legal will at the time of death means the decedent’s assets must go through probate before being distributed to any beneficiaries.
Steps in the Ohio Probate Process
The probate process includes several steps – all of which must be completed before the assets can be distributed to the eligible beneficiaries.
Filing a Petition
Following a loved one’s death, the person in possession of the decedent’s will must file it with the probate court to initiate the probate process. Should a loved one die without a valid will, family members can apply to open a case with the probate court.
Appointing an Executor or Administrator
The first step during the probate proceeding is appointing an executor or administrator. The court must approve the person named as executor in the will or will need to appoint someone should they not approve the named executor or if the individual died without a will. The appointed administrator will then be responsible for overseeing the payment of debts and distribution of assets.
Giving Notice to All Beneficiaries and Creditors
The executor will need to notify all heirs and creditors of the decedent’s death. Creditors have a period of time to submit a claim against the estate. In Ohio, a creditor has to present a claim within six months of the decedent’s death. If an heir is not notified of their loved one’s death, they should contact an Ohio probate attorney immediately.
Inventory the Assets
After notifying the heirs and creditors, the executor or administrator will then be tasked with locating, taking possession of, and assessing the value of the decedent’s assets. This can take quite a bit of time, depending on the assets’ nature or the estate’s size. Once the executor has located and taken possession of the assets, appraisals and other methods will be used to determine the value of the assets.
Pay Outstanding Debt
Next, all valid creditor claims must be paid off using the estate’s funds. Again, any debts or claims that have not been filed after six months of the decedent’s death will not need to be paid. Debts may include:
- Mortgage or lease payments
- Credit card debt
- Utility bills
- Child support or alimony
- Property taxes
- State and federal income tax
Distribute the Remaining Assets
When all the above steps have been completed, the executor can petition the probate court for permission to distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. If a minor is named as a beneficiary, the executor may also be responsible for setting up a trust to accept and manage the inheritance on the minor’s behalf.
How Long Does an Ohio Probate Take?
Many factors affect the length of the probate process. However, the average length of time in Ohio is generally between six months to a year. Creditors have six months to file a claim, which means the probate process cannot be completed before that deadline.
Simplified Version of Probate in Ohio
In some cases, an estate may qualify for a more simplified version of probate, such as those where:
- The total value is $35,000 or less.
- The total value is $100,000, and the surviving spouse will inherit 100%.
Estates that qualify for the simplified process may take as little as two to four months to complete.
Is Probate Always Necessary?
Surprisingly, there are situations where a decedent’s estate will not need to go through probate. You can avoid probate and immediately transfer a loved one’s assets when they are:
- Held in trust
- Owned in joint and survivorship or survivorship tenancy
- Held by a married couple in tenancy by the entirety
- Subject to a beneficiary designation, such as a retirement account with a named beneficiary
- Real estate subject to a transfer-on-death deed or transfer-on-death designation affidavit
- Proceeds of an insurance policy payable to a designated beneficiary
- The decedent’s total assets are under $5,000
How Much Does Probate Cost in Ohio?
Formal probate can be pretty expensive. This is why so many people take measures to try to avoid it. Probate costs typically include:
- Court fees – These fees are generally no more than a few hundred dollars.
- Appraisal fees – An appraiser is frequently needed when the value of certain assets must be determined.
- Court-appointed administrator or executor’s fees. These individuals generally receive a percentage of the estate’s value. However, they often don’t accept the fee if they are a family member of the deceased and will ultimately receive a portion of the estate.
- Attorney fees – The costs for legal representation during the probate process can vary greatly and can be charged by the hour or as a flat fee.
Consult with a Leading Probate Lawyer in Ohio
At Slater & Zurz, we understand the probate process can be stressful. It might seem overwhelming to take on the probate process following the death of a loved one. But we want you to know we are here to help you and your family during this emotional and trying time.
Our Canton probate lawyers will work hard to resolve any probate or estate administration quickly and favorably. With over 150 years of collective experience, we know the ins and outs of Ohio probate law and will advocate on your behalf to protect your best interests.
We can handle all your probate needs with law offices in Akron, Canton, and Cleveland. Call to speak with a Cleveland probate lawyer (888) 534-4850 to arrange your FREE consultation to learn more about the Ohio probate process and how we can help.