Probate is the process by which the estate of a deceased person is administered. By administering the probate of the estate, the deceased’s debts and claims against the estate will be resolved and all assets will be distributed. The probate court in the county where the deceased lives will supervise the probate process. The duties of the probate court are to interpret the will (if applicable) of the deceased, appoint an executor or administrator of the estate and administer the assets and liabilities of the estate. It is the duty of the probate court to ensure that all claims against the estate are satisfied and all assets are distributed per the instructions of the Will, or pursuant to Ohio Probate Law.
Probate Is Not Always Needed
If the deceased held assets which were in joint names with another person, the co-owner typically will inherit that property automatically. If a person dies with assets and debts in their name alone, however, probate will most likely be required. Probate is often needed to:
- Transfer real estate interests
- Release bank or investment accounts held by the deceased
- Collect and pay debts owed by the deceased
- Settle disputes between those that claim they are entitled to the assets of the deceased
- Settle disputes between those who question the validity of the deceased’s Will
Not All Assets Are Administered in Probate
Some assets are non-probate assets. For example, assets that are to be distributed according to a trust, real estate held by way of a survivorship deed, as well as a life insurance and retirement accounts where beneficiaries are named are non-probate assets. Typically, probate assets are solely in the deceased’s name. Examples of probate assets include motor vehicles, bank accounts, investment accounts, stocks, bonds, boats and homes. Determining whether an asset is probate or non-probate should be left up to an experienced attorney like Jay Wagner.
To administer an estate, several things must be completed. This can include the following:
- Filing a probate application for authority to administer the estate and admit a will to probate (if a will exists)
- Appointing the fiduciary of the estate. The fiduciary is the person in charge of administering the decedent’s estate and providing accounting of the administration to the court
- Gathering probate assets and determining the value of the assets
- Selling real estate or estate property to pay creditors
- Payment of any taxes
- Distribution of the assets of the estate
Administration Without a Will
If the decedent did not leave a will, the decedent’s probate property will be distributed to the closest surviving relative(s). This distribution will follow Ohio probate law.
Length of Probate Process
The length of probate will depend on the number of assets and debts to be administered. Typically, the more assets and debts, the longer the probate process will take. If a full estate administration is required, the process will take a minimum of six months, though typically will require a longer period of time. Often the decedent will leave real estate, which may or may not need to be sold. Some larger estates can take more than a year to administer completely. Smaller estates will be completed in a much shorter timeframe.