Probate and Estate Administration

Probate is the legal process by which assets titled in a decedent’s name are transferred to his or her heirs or beneficiaries. The entire process is supervised by the probate court of the county in which the decedent resided. If the decedent prepared a Will, the probate court will ensure that the directions contained in the Will are properly carried out. If the decedent had no Will or estate planning documents, the probate court will supervise the distribution of the decedent’s property to the persons designated to receive them by Ohio law.

The administration of a typical estate will involve the following procedures:

  • The admission of the Will to probate;
  • The notification of all heirs;
  • The inventory and valuation of the decedent’s assets;
  • The presentation and payment of claims against the estate; and
  • The distribution of assets to the appropriate beneficiaries

The cost and duration of the probate process can vary substantially depending on a number of factors such as the value and complexity of the estate, the existence of a Will and the location of real property included in the estate. Will contests or disputes with alleged creditors over the debts of the estate can also add significant cost and delay. Common expenses of an estate include executors fees, attorneys fees, accounting fees, court fees, appraisal costs, and surety bonds. These typically add up to 5% to 7% of the total estate value. Most estates are settled though probate in about 9 to 12 months, assuming there is no litigation involved.

Certain types of assets referred to “non-probate assets” are not required to be administered through the probate process. These include:

  • Property in which you and another person own title as joint tenants with right of survivorship.
  • Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where there are designated death beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance policies with proper beneficiary designations.
  • Bank accounts with pay on death (POD) designations
  • Property owned by a living trust. Legal title to such property passes to successor trustee without having to go through probate.