After a loved one passes away, the survivors are left with a lot to think about at an emotionally difficult time. One of those is the last will and testament and concern over when the entire probate process will begin.

The answer is in most cases, right away. Although probate can take months to complete, the probate court case should be filed as soon as the deceased’s death certificate is received, so as to get everything moving as quickly as possible.

This is especially so where a delay in filing the probate will cause significant financial hardship for family and loved ones. The filing of the probate case may trigger an immediate payment to the family as a prioritized family allowance.

Although there are some situations where the family may want to wait. If there are anticipated to be heavy debts, the debtors and debt collectors have a hard six-month limit to file claims. It some instances, it is prudent to wait the six months until filing probate.

Do I Have To Go To Probate Court?

Ohio has a separate probate division in each county’s common pleas court. Each county probate court has a website with varying amounts of help.

Probate courts in Ohio have business hours usually 8am until 4 or 4:30pm, which can prove to be a challenge when it comes to scheduling.

How Do You File a Will with the Probate Court?

The probate law of Ohio requires that the probate action be opened in the county where the deceased lived. It may be opened with or without a lawyer.

The original filings must include a form entitled Application for Authority to Administer Estate (with or without a lawyer,) and if there is a will, the Application to Probate Will. An original death certificate, and identification of all next of kin and if there is no will, a probate bond are also required.

Several more initial documents are required and each court has different requirements and fee requirements (usually between $200-$400) so check with the local probate court to assure all initial documents are created. Of course if you choose to use a probate attorney, that attorney will know the local requirements.

What Happens After You File the Probate Court Action?

Depending on the status of the assets and debts, the executor/administrator can make partial distributions to the beneficiaries as soon as funds are available. The executor (if there is a will,) administrator (if there is no will) or their legal counsel will obtain an estate federal tax identification number from the IRS and open up an estate bank account.

The next step is to begin the proper inventory of the estate’s assets and debts. The court will let you know the deadline for filing the inventory, and its generally two to three months after the initial filing.

After all assets and debts are known, the debts can be paid and assets distributed to the beneficiaries pursuant to the will, or if there is no will, the laws of dissent and distribution of Ohio.

Can I Avoid Probate Court?

You can and should avoid probate. Probate is a cumbersome and public operation. Living trusts are one way to avoid probate, although they should be set up with advice from a lawyer. Bank accounts and other financial instruments can be converted to payable-on-death. This means that you list a beneficiary and the account goes straight to them when you die.

Joint ownership also avoids probate – so it is a good idea to get your spouse on the car title and the deed for the house with the right of survivorship.

Probate can be difficult, and the sooner it’s begun, the sooner assets will be released. You may not want to think about it right now, with the funeral still in process and grief still paramount in your mind, but it is vital to get probate started as soon as possible so that you and your family can settle the financial situation and begin to move on.

If you need a probate lawyer to help with the process, contact Port Legal today.