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Probate and Estate Administration Law Firm in Northeast Ohio

Ohio Probate, Estate and Trust Administration

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How Does Probate Work?

Probate is a legal process that may take place after someone dies. A special probate court will ensure that the deceased person’s (“decedent”) debts and taxes are paid and the remaining assets pass to the rightful heirs.

The person responsible for satisfying all debts and taxes and transferring the assets is called an executor and is usually named in the decedent’s will. If the decedent dies without a will or the named executor isn’t able or willing to serve, the court will appoint an administrator instead, which is effectively the same role as an executor. The surviving spouse has priority for appointment as administrator.

To start the process, the court will issue a document called Letters of Authority that grants the executor or administrator authority to manage the estate. The duties of an Ohio executor or administrator include:

  • Establishing the validity of the will in court
  • Gathering, inventorying, and safeguarding all of the decedent’s assets
  • Seeking a formal appraisal of the assets
  • Paying the decedent’s debts and taxes using estate funds
  • Distributing any remaining property per the will or, if there is no will, per state law
  • Keeping detailed records of the management and distribution of estate assets

The assets will only pass to the respective heirs once the probate process is complete. This is why many people use various legal strategies to avoid probate and ensure that their heirs will be able to access the inheritance sooner. Our probate attorneys can analyze your estate and recommend suitable probate avoidance tactics.

What Should You Know About the Ohio Probate Process?

Probate in Ohio can be complicated. You shouldn’t navigate the process without the help of an experienced probate attorney. Here are the basics you should know going into probate:

Not All Estates Must Go Through Probate in Ohio

While common, probate isn’t always necessary. Some assets don’t need to go through probate and pass directly to the respective heirs or beneficiaries. Examples include:

  • Assets held in a trust, such as a revocable living trust 
  • Insurance policy proceeds payable to a named beneficiary
  • Assets with a beneficiary designation, such as retirement accounts or payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Real estate held in survivorship tenancy or joint survivorship, which passes directly to the surviving owner
  • Real estate subject to a transfer-on-death deed, also known as a transfer-on-death designation affidavit
  • Assets held by a married couple in tenancy by the entirety, if the tenancy was set up between 1972 and 1984

Any other property types will likely need to go through probate. However, certain small estates may be eligible for a simplified probate procedure or avoid probate altogether.

Simplified or No Probate for Small Estates

Ohio has a simplified, quicker, and less expensive probate procedure for small estates. This procedure is called release from administration and is available if:

  • The estate’s value is $35,000 or less; or
  • The estate’s value is under $100,000, and the surviving spouse inherits the entire probate property under the decedent’s will or by Ohio state law.

A release from administration probate should take just two to four months.

For even smaller estates, no probate at all is necessary. These estates may be able to avoid probate through a procedure called summary release from administration if:

Northeast Ohio Probate Law Firm
  • The estate’s value is less than the amount of the funeral expenses; or
  • The estate’s value is under $5,000, whichever is less.

If so, anyone who has covered or is obligated to cover those expenses, except the surviving spouse, may request a summary release from administration from the court.

Alternatively, the surviving spouse may request summary release from administration if:

  • The spouse inherits the entire estate and has a right to a family support allowance;
  • All of the decedent’s assets are worth less than $45,000; and
  • The surviving spouse has paid or is obligated to pay the funeral costs.

Probate Can Be Expensive

Probate isn’t free, which is one of the reasons many people seek to avoid the process through trusts and other legal instruments. The exact cost of probate will depend on the size and complexity of the estate, but in general, expect to pay the following expenses:

Court fees

These typically amount to a few hundred dollars.

Attorney fees

The executor or administrator of the estate will negotiate these with the attorney. Some Ohio counties also publish fee schedules.

Executor or administrator’s fee

This fee is equal to a percentage of the probate estate’s value. However, family members often don’t seek compensation for their service, as they will inherit part of the estate anyway.

Appraisal fees

These only apply when it is necessary to appraise the value of the estate assets.

Federal estate tax

Ohio doesn’t charge estate tax since 2013, but if the estate is big enough, it may owe federal estate tax.

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Probate Can Take Up to a Year

Probate can take a long time in Ohio. By law, creditors have six months to file a claim against the estate, so the process must last at least that long. Beyond that, straightforward cases can often wrap up within about nine months after the appointment of an executor or administrator. However, if the estate is subject to federal estate tax, probate can easily drag for a year or more.

The process will also experience delays if an heir or beneficiary contests the will, alleging that the decedent was under duress or of unsound mind when signing the will. Eligible parties have three months to file a will contest after being notified of the probate. That said, will contests are rare.

Talk to an Experienced Probate and Estate Administration Lawyer

Probate can be costly, time-consuming, and emotionally taxing for everyone involved. At {LAW FIRM NAME}, we can analyze your estate and suggest probate avoidance strategies that can save your heirs a great deal of hassle and red tape in the future. We can also assist you in all aspects of estate administration services if you are already facing probate after the passing of a loved one.

Call us or contact us online to schedule a consultation with an experienced probate lawyer in Akron, OH.

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Estate Planning in Northeast Ohio

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Attorney John Hoffman is ready to help you with estate planning and medicaid planning. Let John Hoffman Law put our experience and diligent legal representation to work for you. Contact us today to learn how John Hoffman Law can help you.

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150 North Miller Rd., Suite 450
Fairlawn, OH 44333

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