My name is Greg Port and my law firm is called Port Legal. Today I’d like to give a brief background on the distribution of property after a person passes away in the state of Ohio.
What is Probate Court?
To handle the assets of a person after death, Ohio requires that in the absence of a trust agreement, the next of kin (if there is no will) or the named executor (if there is a will) go through probate court. The term probate comes from the Latin root word meaning ‘to prove’.
If there is a will, that probate case will be called testate. If there’s no will, it’s called intestate.
There will be different rules applied if there’s a will or no will, however, the basic process will be the same.
Do You Need An Attorney for Probate Court in Ohio?
One can file a probate case without an attorney, however there’s going to be bumps in the road and someone experienced with handling these can make it much smoother for you.
If you file without an attorney, most forms can be found on the local county’s probate website or on the Ohio Supreme Court’s website.
What Are the Different Types of Probate Case Filings?
There’s several different types of probate case filings depending on the assets remaining.
Real Estate Only
If there’s just a piece of real estate that can be done in a summary proceeding called Real Estate Only and
Released From Administration
if there’s just a small amount of assets that can be done in what’s called Released from Administration, most cases however will be entitled Full Estate.
In a Full Estate filing, the document submitted to the court will include the will, if there is one, an original death certificate, an identification of all next of kin, and a form asking for permission to administer the estate.
Step 1 Obtaining a Letter of Authority
If there is a will and an executor is named, or if there’s no will and all the next of kin can agree on who the administrator will be, the court will issue what’s called a letter of authority.
The letter of authority is the order issued by the court which tells the world that the administrator or executor has the power to take care of all legal and financial affairs of the deceased.
Step 2 Gathering the Assets
The next step is for the executor or administrator to gather the assets. This will include collecting bank accounts, interest and dividend payments, or any other payments or assets which are due to the deceased.
You may choose to have your attorney help you with this process.
Step 3 Expenses and Bills
Also allowed in this phase are the paying of debts and any other payments which are required to preserve this estate. This would include:
- utility payments,
- house payments and
- any other estate expenses.
In some circumstances the court will allow payments to be made to the surviving spouse and minor children for living expenses.
Expenses and bills are to be paid in a very specific order, as follows:
- Administrative Expenses (i.e. funeral expenses, attorney’s fees, and fees to the administrator or executor)
- General Creditors
Step 4 Liquidating the Assets
The next phase of the probate case involves liquidating the assets in preparation for distribution to those identified in the will or the next of kin (if there is no will). There are strict rules on how this can be done.
Step 5 Rules of Distribution
Once everything is known, the bills are paid, and the beneficiaries identified, the court will then allow distribution to the beneficiaries.
The court will then expect a full accounting of everything that was done throughout the probate process. The process can have bumps along the way, but generally a case will last anywhere between 3 to 8 months before it’s finalized.
How Much Does the Probate Process Cost?
Most people want to know how much was process cost. The filing fee in the counties ranges between $200 to $350.
Attorney’s fees will vary greatly depending upon the experience of the attorney, the county in which it is filed, and the billing method by which the attorney uses.
Some attorneys base their billing on the value of the total of the estate and some attorneys will just charge an hourly rate. I recommend calling several attorneys to get an idea of where the cost may be for your specific instance.
Find an Experienced Probate Attorney in Ohio
The process may seem complicated, but with solid counsel the process can go smoothly. It’s our goal at Port Legal to guard, guide, and defend each of our clients in every probate case that we handle.
We’re located in Franklin County and handle cases all throughout Ohio.
Please do not hesitate to call us at 614-641-7399 or contact us by requesting a consultation online.
Additionally, if there’s a topic you’d like to see addressed, please feel free to add it to the comments section below.