After a close family member dies, you might begin hearing the word “probate.” What is it and will you have to participate in the process? Depending on how your loved one structured the distribution of their property, you may experience the probate process.

How Does Probate Work?

Probate is the legal process that occurs after someone dies. During this process, the deceased person’s will is validated, their property is inventoried and appraised, outstanding debts and taxes are paid, and any remaining property is distributed to the heirs. The goal is to ensure that everything in the decedent’s estate is accounted for and given to the correct beneficiaries per their wishes or according to state law.

When a person creates a will, they name an executor— a personal representative who takes on the duties of seeing their property through the probate process. They are responsible for filing the right papers in probate court, identifying assets and debts, and contacting the will’s beneficiaries. All of this can be done with the help of a lawyer. An executor’s job is not done until all of the decedent’s estate is satisfactorily distributed.

It’s also important to note that not all property goes through probate. Most states allow a certain amount of property to bypass probate. Putting property in a trust is another way to avoid the probate process. In his video “How to Avoid Probate,” Attorney Gregory Port of Port Legal outlines how individuals can help their loved ones avoid probate by utilizing a Living Trust.

Understanding Probate

From the administration of a probate estate to probate court and simply understanding how
the probate process works, these videos can help you understand what to expect.

What Is Involved in the Administration of a Probate Estate?

After a probate filing has been made, the case goes through the state of administration. This is the phase where the property is identified and obtained, bills and expenses are paid, and the remaining property is distributed to beneficiaries. This is all done by the executor.

Begin by finding and securing the decedent’s assets such as bank and investment accounts, retirement accounts, and personal property. Life insurance policies and jointly held real estate do not go through probate.

A separate bank account for the estate should be opened and all funds transferred there, and the executor must submit a detailed report of all assets to the court. At this time, the executor may arrange for payments from the estate account used to maintain the estate and to pay funeral expenses, bills, debts, and taxes such as property taxes or estate taxes. Funds for the maintenance of a surviving spouse or children may also be arranged.

Finally, the remaining property will be distributed to the beneficiaries listed in the will or to the decedent’s next of kin, according to state law. The executor notifies the beneficiaries and makes the arrangements to transfer their inheritances to them. This ends the state of administration.

How Does Probate Work?

If you have been named the executor of someone’s estate in Ohio, you will probably have a busy six months to a year ahead of you navigating the probate process. However, with the help of an attorney and this information, you can understand the probate process and your role in it.

To begin with, the executor petitions the court to begin probate in the county where the decedent lived at the time of their death. You will fill out paperwork for the court and file a valid will and the death certificate. Once everything is approved, you will receive a Letter of Authority authorizing you to take control of all property of the deceased person.

The next step is the state of administration of the estate, which is explained in detail above in the previous video. This is the stage when the executor takes control of the decedent’s assets, pays outstanding debts, and distributes what’s left to the beneficiaries of the will.

Once all debts and inheritances are settled, the executor submits records of everything to the court and asks for the estate to be closed and to be released from their role as executor. At this time, probate ends.

Remember, if you are named an executor of an estate, you do not have to go through probate alone. Working with your loved one’s estate planning attorney or your own will make the process easier and give you and your family greater peace of mind at a difficult time

Video Series: Understanding Probate

From the administration of a probate estate, to probate court and simply understanding how
the probate process works, these videos can help you understand what to expect.

What Is Involved in the Administration of a Probate Estate?

How Does Probate Work?

Video Series:
What To Do When A Loved One Dies?

Dealing with the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult things we can encounter. The following videos are a 3 part series that guide what you need to do immediately after death and in the weeks to follow.

What to Do Immediately After Death

The shock of a loved one’s death can be overwhelming, but knowing what to do ahead of time will make things easier. Here, Attorney Greg Port explains the first five things you should do immediately after the death of a friend or loved one.

What to Do In The Weeks After Death

Once immediate needs are met and family members have been notified of the death, make arrangements for the body and begin getting the deceased person’s affairs in order. Attorney Greg Port explains how.

What to Do In The Months After Death

In the months after a loved one’s death, continue to identify and protect their properties and assets. Remember that powers of attorney and guardianships dissolve upon death and to work with your attorney to ensure financial decisions you make are done within the law.