De-Puzzling the Probate Process

De-Puzzling the Probate ProcessIf you are facing a Dayton, Ohio, probate process, you most likely have a hundred and one questions running through your head. Maybe you are already involved in probate but are confused about what is next or how to ensure it goes smoothly. This article will give you insight into what is involved in the probate process in Dayton. At Lovett & Lovett Co., LPA, we are here to help guide you through this puzzling time.

Defining Probate

A probate court is a court of limited jurisdiction that oversees the affairs of a person who has died. Typically, this means overseeing and/or directing the distribution of assets. The court collects assets to pay off debts and then distributes what is left to the deceased person’s heirs. Anything owned by the recently deceased person is thrown into the probate pot, except for those assets owned jointly, assets held in a trust, and payable-on-death accounts, like insurance policies.

If the decedent has a will, the probate court must handle the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries. Also, if there is no will in place, the probate court must direct asset distribution. The state will determine the beneficiaries if a person dies without a will. In Ohio, beneficiaries are chosen in a certain order, starting with the surviving spouse and then any children. After a spouse or children, the list then goes in order of priority, starting with your parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and grandparents. If no relatives are located and you have not left a will, then your assets may go to the state of Ohio. The court names an executor who manages the distribution of the assets. The executor must also address any claims against the estate to see if they are valid.

Problems with Probate

Often, issues arise with probate, including problems related to executorship and claims against the estate, such as disagreements about asset and property distribution. Sometimes, beneficiaries feel they have been short-changed and therefore challenge the probate process.

Let’s say, for instance, that you were one of your father’s primary caregivers, and you spent a significant amount of time caring for him in the years before he passed. Out of gratitude, your father left a greater portion of his assets to you than he did to your siblings. It is very possible that the other beneficiaries of his estate may challenge the validity of the will or the competency of the executor. An estate planning attorney can guide you through the probate proceedings and help you through disagreements like this.

There may also be issues with an estate’s debts and taxes. The more problems that arise, the longer it takes for beneficiaries to get their assets. Some probate cases can go on for years and can become costly legal battles that lead to conflict among family members. This is the last thing you want to leave to your family. This is why we recommend sitting down with an estate planning attorney to determine the best strategy for your unique situation that will help you to avoid probate.

Avoiding Probate

With the help of a probate attorney or a Dayton estate planning attorney, you can avoid these problems altogether. One of the best ways to avoid probate is to place all your assets in a living trust, which serves as a legal entity that now owns those assets instead of you. You are the creator of the trust, which means that you call the shots. With the help of our legal expertise, you leave instructions on how to handle or distribute your assets after your death. Once you die, this distribution process happens privately with little to no involvement by the probate court. For your heirs, that means fewer headaches and hassle and a much shorter waiting period to receive their assets.

At Lovett & Lovett Co., LPA, we have helped many Ohio residents to avoid the probate process through the use of various planning tools, such as the living trust. This is, however, not the only tool available to you, and it is important to note that a trust is not right for everyone. If you decide not to create a trust, there are other ways that you can avoid probate in Ohio. There are three types of assets that are exempt from Ohio probate law. These assets include:

  • Transfer on death assets: These can include real estate, securities (stocks and bonds), and vehicles. You can register these assets to transfer on death, but you must state who will receive these assets on the transfer statement. This is done on the deed or title of each asset.
  • Payable on death assets: Bank accounts, life insurance policies, and Certificate of Deposits (CDs) can be handled in a similar manner to Transfer on Death Assets. You must name the beneficiaries of these assets, and, when you die, they will then be able to be accessed by those beneficiaries rather than having to go through probate.
  • Jointly owned assets with rights of survivorship: This tactic works for real estate, valuable property, bank accounts, and vehicles. This is often used by married couples to give the surviving spouse full ownership upon the death of the other spouse (and owner).

When it comes to strategically planning for the future of your estate in a way that avoids hefty fees and lengthy processes, there are many options available to you, as you can see.  Each of these options has its own pitfalls, thus it is crucial that you seek the help of an estate planning attorney, such as the attorneys at Lovett & Lovett Co., LPA.

The Role of the Probate Attorney

Administration of an estate can be a complicated process, so having an experienced attorney by  your side can help alleviate your fears and concerns. By choosing to go it alone, you ultimately put your assets at risk and make it harder for your family in the long run.

If you are an executor, it is important that you consult a probate attorney before you execute your duties. An experienced probate attorney can help you get all the documents prepared and filled out, collect the assets, review debts, transfer titles, and resolve any court case efficiently, saving money and time for you and the beneficiaries.

The probate and estate planning attorneys at Lovett & Lovett Co., LPA have worked with all types of clients. Whether you are beginning to plan for your future or you are an executor seeking assistance in getting through probate, the attorneys at Lovett & Lovett Co., LPA can help you create a plan that is best for everyone involved. We have three offices in the following Ohio cities: Tipp City, Dayton, and Springfield. Call us today to find out how we can help you.