When a person dies without an estate plan, settling the deceased person's final affairs will require the surviving family members to go through the expensive and time-consuming probate process. According to a 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study by Caring.com, only about one-third of American adults (32.9%) have a Will, trust, or other estate planning documents in order. In Ohio, probate allows the surviving loved ones to gather the decedent's estate, pay taxes and debts, and eventually transfer the remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
If you're considering an estate plan and wish to better understand the probate process or how to avoid it, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced Ohio probate attorney for reliable legal guidance and assistance. With over two decades of legal experience, our firm has been dedicated to guiding individuals and families through the often complicated process of probate. When you choose to work with our team at Sam Thomas III, ESQ. LLC, you’ll have a trusted attorney by your side to discuss the unique details of your situation, help you understand the benefits and risks of a will or trust, and explore all of your available options to avoid probate.
Our firm is proud to represent clients throughout Shaker Heights, Ohio, and the surrounding communities of Cleveland, as well as the Northeast areas of Ohio, including Akron, Canton, and Youngstown.
In Ohio, probate is a court-supervised process that is often needed to settle a decedent's final affairs. The probate process in Ohio involves:
Collecting and evaluating the deceased person's assets
Paying debts and taxes
Distributing any remaining assets to inheritors
In Ohio, the entire probate process can take anywhere from 9 to 12 months on average. In situations where surviving loved ones and creditors become hostile over the remaining properties, the probate process may take even longer.
The probate process can affect your surviving loved ones in the following ways:
Probate can often be expensive. This ultimately reduces the size of your estate or the amount that may be inherited by beneficiaries and heirs.
Probate can be a lengthy and time-consuming process. There are oftentimes long delays before properties are transferred to any beneficiaries.
Assets and bank accounts can be frozen and made completely inaccessible to family members until probate is finalized.
The estate will be subject to inheritance tax, federal estate taxes, and state taxes.
There is often a lack of control during the probate process. Your personal representatives may have limited discretion on how to handle certain debts or assets.
Probate is a matter of public record, meaning many estate matters that you would like to keep private may be made available to the public.
Settling an estate through probate in Ohio involves the following steps:
File the will in the superior court in the county where the deceased person resided while still alive.
File a petition for probate and request the court appoint an executor or personal representative. The court may appoint an administrator if there is no will.
The county court will issue "Letters of Authority" giving the executor or personal representative the legal authority to act on the estate's behalf.
Once appointed, the executor or administrator will do the following:
Gather and evaluate the decedent's assets
Notify any heirs or beneficiaries named in the will, as well as creditors of the probate proceedings
Collect all decedent's income, including dividends, interests, rents, claims, and debts owed
Pay any valid claims to creditors
Settle all outstanding debts and taxes on the estate
Prepare and file the decedent's final income tax returns
Distribute remaining estate property to beneficiaries
A simplified and cost-efficient probate process is available in any of the following situations:
The surviving spouse inherits all probate property, provided the estate's value is less than $100,000
The estate's value is not more than $35,000.
The simplified probate process for small estates in Ohio typically takes anywhere from two to four months, depending on the size of the estate.
Avoiding probate in Ohio requires proper planning. Some possible ways to avoid probate include establishing an estate plan that involves any of the following elements:
Payable on death accounts or Transfer on death accounts
Tenancy by the entirety or Community property
Creating a will and trust is one of the most common avenues that many people use to ensure their wishes are carried out after they pass. Wills are economical up front, but they won't allow your loved ones to avoid probate later on. They will still need to present the Will to the Ohio court to verify its validity.
Conversely, trusts are a bit trickier and pricier upfront. However, they can help prevent your surviving loved ones from going through the probate process once you’re gone. An experienced estate planning attorney can assess your personal situation and help you determine which option is right for you and your unique needs.
The Ohio probate process often involves a lot of complex legal procedures. Without having the necessary estate planning documents, your estate and surviving family members must try to navigate a potentially lengthy and expensive probate process. Thankfully, with the right plan in place, your surviving loved ones may be able to avoid probate, thereby saving time and cost of estate administration. If probate cannot be avoided, having an experienced Ohio probate attorney by your side can help your family get through the process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
When you choose to work with our firm, you will have the opportunity to work with an experienced probate attorney who is dedicated to providing comprehensive legal guidance and support to individuals and families facing the complicated process of probate. As your legal counsel, we can assess the details of your unique situation and help you understand all of your legal options. Our team will work to simplify the probate process and guide you through every step from start to finish.
Additionally, we can help update existing wills, trusts, or other estate plan details. Our firm will work with you to devise a suitable plan to protect your estate, assets, property, and investments. We will work diligently to address your needs and concerns at every turn and ensure that every last detail is taken care of for both you and your family when you’re gone. So don’t wait. Call or reach out to Sam Thomas III, ESQ. LLC today to schedule a free consultation.
Probate can be an emotional and complicated process. Luckily, you don't have to face these challenges alone. Contact Sam Thomas III, ESQ. LLC today to schedule a one-on-one case assessment. Our firm can guide you through each step of the probate process and help you navigate any critical decisions along the way. Our firm is proud to serve the needs of individuals, families, and businesses throughout Shaker Heights, Cleveland, and the Northeast Ohio areas of Akron, Canton, and Youngstown. Call today for help!