Probate in Ohio is the legal process that determines the value and distribution of the assets of a deceased person, known as a decedent, who was an Ohio resident at the time of death. Probate is necessary to protect the decedent’s assets for the heirs, creditors, and others with a vested interest in the estate. In addition, probate handles the payment of outstanding debts and taxes and oversees how the remaining assets are distributed to those entitled to receive them under the decedent’s will or by law.
What Is Involved in Probating an Estate?
Probating an estate requires that the Probate Court assign a suitable person to supervise the administration of the estate. If the person appointed to manage is named in the will, this person is called an executor. If there is no will, this person is referred to as an administrator.
In either case, executor or administrator could be an individual, bank, or trust company and their duties generally consist of the following:
List the names, ages, and relationships of all known heirs.
Take possession of and conserve all assets of the decedent.
File an inventory of all the decedent’s assets with the Probate Court.
Review and determine the validity of any claims against the deceased’s estate.
File and pay income and estate taxes.
Distribute estate assets to the appropriate persons.
Provide receipts and a complete record of all disbursements made by the executor or administrator to the Probate Court.
It’s important to note two specific conditions that can affect the probate process:
If the value of all the decedent’s property comes to $35,000 or less, the estate can be relieved from the administration requirements.
For deaths that occur on and after March 18, 1996, assets of $100,000 or less can be relieved from administration provided the surviving spouse is either the sole heir at law or under a will.
Is Probate Costly?
The expenses involved in putting an estate through probate include court costs, attorney fees, executor or administrator fees, attorney, and taxes. They are broken down thusly:
Court Costs. Court costs are based on a schedule of charges laid out by the state legislature for each type of document submitted to the Probate Court. A $250 court cost deposit is required when first opening an estate. This amount will usually be enough to cover all the court costs. Payments can be made in cash, money order, cashier’s check, MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express credit or debit cards. Note that using a credit or debit card will also incur a small convenience fee on top of the total bill.
Attorney Fees. Attorney fees are described in detail in Local Rule 71.1 of the Probate Court of Cuyahoga County.
Executor or Administrator Fees. These are established by the state legislature and are based on a percentage of the estate—usually between 1% and 4%—depending on the nature and value of the assets.
All taxes due on or after the deceased’s death must be paid by the administrator or executor of the estate. These taxes include income taxes (local, state, and federal), real estate taxes, personal property taxes, and Ohio and federal estate taxes.
Is a Probate Always Required?
Probate can take a long time, and the more complex or contested the estate is, the more time it will take to finalize. The longer probate takes, the more it will cost. Different states have different laws for probate and if it’s required after the decedent’s death. In Ohio, probate is needed any time property is listed in the decedent’s sole name, regardless of the estate’s value.
Ohio provides for a streamlined probate process, however, known as “small estate probate.” To qualify, the following conditions must be met:
The value of the probate estate is $35,000 or less, or
The value of the probate estate is $100,000 or less, and the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse.
Some assets can bypass probate because beneficiaries have been designated for the asset. These can include such things as:
Life insurance payouts
Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA)
Medical savings accounts
Similarly, assets held by a trust or jointly owned with a right of survivorship can also bypass the probate process.
What About Ohio Estate Taxes?
In Ohio, estate taxes are no longer applicable for dates of death after December 31, 2012.
That said, other taxes must be filed in the decedent’s name or their estate. These can include:
Final individual federal and state income tax returns for the year following the decedent’s passing.
Federal estate/trust income tax return.
Federal estate tax return
Your Probate Experts
Dealing with probate can be time-consuming and confusing—especially if complications arise. That’s why the experienced attorneys at Heban, Murphee & Lewandowski are standing by, ready to help.