Probate ensures that, after death, assets are divided per the decedent’s will or, if there isn’t a will, with the laws of intestacy. In Ohio, assets owned solely by the deceased sometimes require the probate process. This process costs time and money, often costing 3-7% of the estate’s total value. So, how does probate work? Solomon, Steiner & Peck Ltd. unpacks which assets are exempt from probate, and how estate planning can help ensure assets don’t get tied up in probate court.

Ohio Probate: How Does Probate Work?

Probate is a court-supervised legal process. Through it, individuals that are entitled to assets receive them, and debts and taxes owed by the decedent are paid off. Some assets can be processed without probate court approval, but others require estate planning to avoid Ohio probate.

Non-Probate Property in Ohio

Assets that qualify as non-probate property automatically pass on to a joint owner or beneficiary without having to pass through probate administration. Examples of common non-probate property include:

  • Real estate held in joint or survivorship form
  • Assets and property with a transfer-on-death designation
  • Insurance proceeds with a named beneficiary
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Assets held in trust

Ohio Small Estate Probate

Some estates meet the requirements for a more streamlined process called small estate probate. To qualify, the total value of the estate must be less than $100,000, with all assets going to the decedent’s spouse. Alternatively, estates qualify if the value of the assets is $35,000 or less.

Very small estates can qualify for a summary release from administration. Estates can be eligible for this exemption from the full probate process if the value of the assets is less than $5,000 or the cost of funeral expenses. Any person that is not a surviving spouse of the decedent and who paid for funeral or burial expenses can apply.

Conducting a Probate Proceeding

If assets do need to go through probate court approval, then the executor of the deceased person’s will typically be in charge of the estate. If there is no will, or the executor named in the will is unavailable, then the probate court will appoint an administrator. The executor or administrator is in charge of the following duties:

  • Proving that the decedent’s will is valid
  • Gather and inventory the decedent’s assets
  • Seek appraisal for the assets
  • Pay off any debts and taxes owed by the decedent
  • Distribute any remaining property under the direction of the will or state laws

How Long Does Probate Take?

Creditors are given six months to file claims against the decedent. As a result, you can expect probate to take at least that long. A straightforward estate will usually complete the probate process within nine months from the time the executor or administrator is appointed. If someone contests the will, or if the estate owes state or federal estate tax, then the process can take a year or more.

With proper estate planning, those that have too many assets to qualify for small estate probate can still avoid probate. Many people believe they require a trust to avoid probate, but sometimes there are less expensive ways to designate assets as non-probate property.

Whether you’re trying to make sense of probate court filings or hoping to avoid your assets going through probate in the future, Solomon, Steiner & Peck Ltd. can help. Our attorneys make sense of the complex processes associated with probate. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.

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