July 18, 2019

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Ohio Probate Law

Columbus Law Firms

Probate is the process of distributing the property, collecting on debts, and paying debts and taxes of a person who has died, as well as the estate taxes created by the death. Property is distributed according to the decedent’s will or, if there is no will, according to Ohio law.

Executor or Administrator

If there is a will, then the executor named in the will is responsible for administrating the estate. If no executor is named, or if there is no will, the probate court will appoint an administrator.

An individual, bank, or trust company can serve as executor or administrator. Administering an estate is a complicated process involving multiple duties. When the total assets of the estate are more than $35,000, or more than $100,000 in cases where the surviving spouse is to receive all of the assets of the estate, these duties include:

  • Locating all beneficiaries if there is a will
  • Locating all possible heirs and determining their relationship to the decedent if there is no will
  • Collecting any debts, and receiving any payments due to the decedent or the estate
  • Paying the debts of the estate, including any taxes, after determining which claims are valid
  • Distributing the estate to beneficiaries or heirs according to the instructions of the probate court
  • Preparing and filing estate tax returns

Individuals typically require the assistance of a Columbus probate attorney when administering an Ohio estate.

Property Which is Not subject to Probate

In Ohio, there is probate property and nonprobate property. Nonprobate property does not go through probate. Nonprobate property is created with named beneficiaries before death. Examples include:

  • Payable on death and transfer on death accounts
  • Joint tenants with right of survivorship
  • Trusts
  • Retirement benefits with a named beneficiary
  • Insurance benefits with a named beneficiary

Nonprobate property automatically passes to the beneficiary, allowing loved ones to avoid the lengthy probate process which can mean waiting anywhere from six months to several years to receive the property or funds which they may need right away.

When There is No Will

When a person dies without a will it is called dying intestate. The decedent’s estate is distributed according to Ohio’s Statute of Decent and Distribution. The number of heirs and their relationship to the decedent determine how the estate is divided.

Spouses and children get the highest priority. If there is no spouse and no children or grandchildren, the parents of the decedent receive the estate.

Brothers and sisters are next in line, with nieces and nephews taking the place of any deceased brothers and sisters. Aunt and uncles follow, again with their children taking their place if they are deceased.

If none of these relations exist, the estate goes to the “next of kin” and if there is no next of kin it goes to the State of Ohio.