When someone dies without the right estate plan in place, their assets may enter the probate process. In Ohio, probate is a court-supervised legal process that ensures the deceased individual’s debts and taxes are properly paid and that assets are delivered to the designated people. This process can be tedious and hard to understand. For those who are entering the probate process for the first time in Ohio or who are preparing an estate plan in the state, here is a closer look at what the process entails.
What Happens in Probate?
When someone dies, their assets are sent to the probate court. The court supervises the taxes and debts against that person, then distributes assets to beneficiaries. If the decedent (the person who died) had a will, the probate court will try to follow the terms of that will. If no will is present, the probate court distributes assets based on current Ohio regulations. This process will take place in the probate court located in the same county where the person lived. Sometimes, additional probate proceedings are necessary in states where the person owns additional real estate.
Probate is necessary to ensure that assets are distrusted properly, and debts are paid when needed and assets are properly distributed. It allows beneficiaries the option to contest a controversial will, and gives oversight when disagreements arise about an estate.
What Type of Property Goes to Probate?
In Ohio, most property owned in the decedent’s name is sent to probate. However, if property is held as joint tenants with right of survivorship, and the other person is still living, that property is exempt from probate. In addition, properties in a trust or accounts set up as payable on death skip the probate court altogether. Similarly, insurance and retirement benefits with a named beneficiary are not subject to probate court.
What is an Executor?
When someone in the state of Ohio makes a will, they will name an executor. This is the person who oversees the probate process. If the state has no executor, the state names an administrator to perform the same tasks.
The executor has many responsibilities. These include finding the beneficiary, contacting them, paying debts, receiving payments due to the estate, caring for the property, and investigating the validity of claims against the estate. The executor is also responsible to pay debts and other obligations, then carry out the probate court’s instructions about distrusting any remaining assets. The court judge will oversee the executor’s efforts.
How Much Does Probate Cost?
The size of the state as well as any complications that arise during the process will all impact the cost of the probate process. However, there are certain costs that all estates have to pay for the probate process in Ohio. These include:
In addition, any outstanding debts must be paid during probate. Most of these costs come from the value of the estate. This can lessen the amount given to beneficiaries.
How Long is the Probate Process in Ohio?
The length of time an estate stays in probate depends on how complex it is, whether or not the person had a will, and whether or not the potential beneficiaries contest the will. Simple estates will be in probate for about six months, while complex cases can take several years to complete. If the beneficiaries choose to contest the will, it can add years to the process.
In addition to contentions from the beneficiaries, taxes and debts can delay an estate’s journey through the probate courts. Creditors are allowed to make claims against the estate for up to six months after someone dies. Federal taxes must be filed nine months after the death. If this results in an audit, the process can take an additional year. While these expenses are being calculated, the executor cannot distribute the assets.
How to Avoid Probate
Probate is not a process beneficiary can choose to skip. Failing to go through this process, when it is required, leads to stiff penalties and consequences. The only way to avoid probate is through estate planning prior to the estate owner’s death.
A revocable living trust is a common tool to use for this. In addition, careful titling of assets can prevent them from becoming part of the probate process. Working with a skilled estate planning attorney, like the team at Heban, Murphree & Lewandowski, can help you make the right choices now, so your estate is protected from the probate process in the future. If you are working on your estate plan, reach out for help today.
If you are entering the probate process with the estate of someone you love who has died, our attorneys can help walk you through the process with insight into what to expect. Whether before or after a death, having an estate planning legal team on your side will make the probate process easier to understand and handle.