A Brief Overview of Probate in Ohio

When a loved one passes away, it can be hard to transition to addressing the affairs of the estate after remembrance. The administration of a deceased loved one's estate can involve the probate process, which determines how a person's assets are apportioned after death according to his or her will and state law. This article provides a brief overview of the Ohio probate process to help familiarize those who will go through the process.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal proceeding that administers certain types of assets and property owned by a deceased individual in order to resolve any outstanding expenses, pay taxes and distribute remaining property to those identified in the individual's will or according to Ohio law.

Property subject to probate is referred to as probate property, and the deceased owner of the estate is referred to as the decedent. The person who administers the decedent's estate is referred to as the executor or administrator. In many cases, a person may name an executor in his or her will or other estate planning document prior to death. If the decedent did not name an executor, one will be appointed by the court. A probate proceeding takes place in the probate court of the county where the decedent lived. If he or she owned property in another state, such as a summer home, an additional probate proceeding may be necessary in that state.

Why is Probate Necessary?

The probate process is required because it provides the executor or administrator of the estate with the legal authority to handle the decedent's probate assets. As a result of probate, the executor or administrator acquires the authority and duty to control and safeguard the assets of the decedent's estate. Therefore, the executor or administrator is responsible for many tasks, including:

  • Caring for all property of the decedent
  • Receiving payments made to the estate, including interest, dividends and other income
  • Collecting debts, claims and notes owed by the decedent
  • Determining the names and relevant information of all beneficiaries if there is a will
  • Executing the instructions of the probate court regarding the estate and distribution of assets
  • Investigating the validity of claims against the estate and paying any outstanding obligations, including federal, state and local taxes
  • Planning and filing applicable federal, state and local taxes

The probate process prioritizes the use of the decedent's estate to meet financial and legal obligations. Generally, financial obligations such as debts and taxes are paid using the resources of the estate before assets and property are distributed according to the will.

While the probate judge and support staff supervise the work of the administrator, the probate process can be detailed and complicated. An executor is responsible for the preparation and filing of legal documents, hearings in court, an inventory of assets, an appraisal of the estate's assets, an accounting of funds and other actions to meet the duties outlined above. Since the duties and work of an executor can be complex executors often hire probate attorneys for assistance.