Dealing with the passing of a loved one can be stressful. Having to deal with wills and probate court can make this time even more difficult.
Fortunately, petitioning for probate is a straightforward process. It can be accomplished easily and relatively quickly with simple estates. More complicated estates may require additional work.
Here’s what you need to know.
Step one would be to locate the original will. Once that has been obtained, you should file in the county where the deceased legally resided. If you can’t find the will, search online court records to see if it has already been filed.
Because Ohio probate court will not open an estate without proof the creator of the will has indeed passed on, you’ll also need to order a copy of the death certificate to include. These can be obtained by contacting the Ohio Department of Health, Vital Statistics.
Next, you’ll want to file a petition for probate. You’ll be looking to have the will admitted into probate and have an estate executor assigned. The petition should include:
This is when you’ll want to have an attorney involved to ensure all of the details are covered to the court’s satisfaction.
Do you always need an attorney to handle probate? Not necessarily, although it’s nice to have someone with experience look after all the details. That said, if the estate is relatively small, the assets can cover all debts with some remaining, relatives and beneficiaries get along, and the deceased’s assets can be transferred without probate (e.g., joint investments, community property, retirement accounts, insurance policy proceeds, etc.) then you might not need an attorney to handle these affairs.
Following the filing of a petition for probate and the hearing, the court will issue Letters of Authority to the executor. These will enable the executor to properly administer the estate by giving them access to a list of the decedent’s assets.
From there, the executor can identify beneficiaries, give notice to creditors, handle creditor claims, and draw up an inventory of the estate assets. The executor has three months from their assignation to prepare and file a complete list of the estate’s assets. Note that, under Ohio probate law, creditors have six months to file any claims.
Once creditors have been dealt with, the executor must petition the probate court to close the estate. To help move the closeout process along, they may seek and receive waivers from the estate’s beneficiaries. Upon approval from the court, the estate can be distributed to beneficiaries.
How quickly it takes for probate to be completed can depend on several factors. The more valuable the estate and assets, the longer it could take. Likewise, an estate with a party contesting the will’s validity or with an abundance of creditors and bills will also take more time to settle.
Smaller estates with little in the way of assets and debts may move more quickly. In most cases, starting from the time the will is filed with the court, probate and asset distribution can happen within eight to twelve months.
Since there can be many details involved, the simpler the estate, the quicker the process.
Should there be no assets part of the probate estate, or if the assets were jointly owned with a beneficiary, you could avoid having to go through probate. Assets that would not be considered probate assets include payouts from life insurance, revocable trusts, and “pay on death” or “transfer on death” bank accounts, securities, and vehicle registrations.
Another reason some estates won’t require court supervision and formal probate in Ohio would be if the value of the estate is under $35,000 or the value of the probate estate is $100,000 or less. Should the whole estate go to a surviving spouse, then a “summary probate” can be applied, which would only involve completing some forms and waiting a certain amount of time before distributing the assets.
In Ohio, costs are usually made up of a combination of filing fees, attorney fees, and executor fees. The filing fee for probate of a will is typically around $100.
Attorneys fees and executor fees can be the most costly expense of the estate. These are often calculated based on either a percentage of the estate value, an hourly fee, or a flat fee.
Depending on the estate, filing probate in Ohio can be simple or complex. Should issues surround the estate, you can contact the legal team at Heban, Murphree & Lewandowski, LLC, to help you navigate the process. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have so the process is as smooth and hassle-free as possible.