The passing of a loved one is filled with a time of grief and pain. You need time to deal with the loss of a loved one even if that loss was expected. Unfortunately, the emotional aspects of the grieving process are often overshadowed by the practical tasks of dealing with final arrangements and the decedent’s probate estate. Regardless of whether your loved one passed away owning a great deal of assets or the estate will be small, the duties and obligations involved in probating an estate can be overwhelming and exhausting.
The probate attorneys of Lovett & House are dedicated to making the process as stress-free and easy for you as possible. We understand that you need time to grieve the loss of your loved one. The probate process can be confusing and complex. The legal requirements that you must comply with in order to settle the estate can be difficult to understand. Let our compassionate and skilled lawyers handle the legal requirements of settling your loved one’s affairs while you focus on what is truly important—the healing process.
What is the Probate Court?
Each county in Ohio has a probate court that supervises the probate process. The court in the county of the decedent’s residence at the time of death is the court that has jurisdiction over the estate. The court reviews all of the documents filed by the executor and other parties of interest, reviews each transaction conducted by the executor, and presides over any litigation regarding the probate estate.
Other matters that are under the jurisdiction of the probate court include guardianship proceedings, marriage licenses, petitions to commit a mentally ill person, land appropriation cases, and adoptions.
What is the Probate Process?
Probate is the legal process of distributing the assets of a deceased person in accordance with the decedent’s final wishes and Ohio probate laws. The process begins when a person dies. While you are alive, you have complete control and authority of your financial affairs and your assets. You decide how those assets should be handled and you decide what is in your best interest financially. When you die, someone must step in to take control of your finances and property. You can control who will be in charge of your assets upon your death by naming that person in your will; however, if you fail to name a person to administer your probate estate, the court will choose that person for you in accordance with Ohio’s intestate laws. Our attorneys also offer estate-planning services so that you can dictate how your estate will be distributed upon your death.
Your executor is the person appointed to take control of your assets and perform the duties required to probate your estate. The executor of an estate manages the assets of the decedent until those assets can be distributed to the heirs. Other duties of an executor include:
- Review the decedent’s will to determine the heirs named in the will;
- Determine if there are other heirs according to intestate laws that must be notified of the probate;
- Conduct an inventory of the decedent’s property and prepare the inventory forms required by the court;
- Pay the final expenses and bills of the decedent;
- Review and pay, if valid, claims filed by creditors of the decedent;
- Respond to any challenges to the will or the distribution by heirs or potential heirs;
- Respond to any litigation filed against the estate by creditors, heirs, or other parties in interest;
- Distribute the decedent’s assets in accordance with the will or Ohio intestate laws;
- File final income tax returns for the decedent and estate tax returns, if required; and,
- Prepare a final accounting to file with the probate court of all receipts, disbursements, and distributions made on behalf of the estate.
Even a small, straightforward estate requires a great deal of time and expertise to complete the required documents. The legal issues involved with probating an estate can be difficult to understand and mistakes can be costly. Many executors find that they need a probate attorney to guide them through the Ohio probate process and assist with completing the necessary probate forms to finalize the estate.
Does Every Estate Need to be Probated and Does All Property go Through Probate?
Ohio probate law provides that certain probate estates with a value of $35,000 or below may not be required to complete all of the requirements for a formal probate. Determining the correct value of assets is essential for this reason as well as for estate tax purposes. Our office can assist the executor with obtaining appraisals, when necessary, to correctly value the decedent’s estate.
The decedent may have some property that passes outside of the probate process. Life insurance, retirement accounts, annuities, and other assets that are left to a specific beneficiary typically pass directly to that beneficiary without the necessity of going through probate. Property that is held in a trust is not considered property of the estate and it is not controlled by the executor. This will dictate how this property is to be distributed upon the decedent’s death.
In some cases, how an asset is titled can affect whether it will go through the probate process. Because it can be difficult to understand the laws regarding jointly titled property, it may help to have an attorney assist with preparing the inventory for the estate. The inventory is a major component of a probate estate and must be correct in order to ensure that the property is distributed correctly.
Hire an Experienced Probate Attorney
The probate attorneys of Lovett & House Co., LPA are here to help you through the probate process. We are sensitive to the emotions and difficulties that many families go through when probating the estate of a loved one. Our attorneys want to take the confusion and frustration out of the probate process by helping the executor discharge his or her duties while avoiding unnecessary conflicts with family members or other parties in interest. If you have questions about the probate process, contact our office to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced probate attorneys.