How does the probate process begin?
When an individual dies, the probate process may be started by any interested person (including creditors), although it is typically the person designated as Executor in the Will, a spouse or close relative of the decedent.
What is a fiduciary?
A fiduciary is the legal representative of the estate and is appointed by the Probate Court. In most cases, it is the person nominated as Executor in the decedent’s Will. If no Will exists, the appointed fiduciary is called an Administrator. In some cases, the Court may require the fiduciary to obtain a bond.
How long should this take?
While the length of an estate administration depends on the complexity of the issues encountered, it typically takes six months to a year. Creditors have six months from the date of death to file claims against the estate.
What are examples of assets that pass directly to beneficiaries but are NOT probate assets?
• Assets within a Trust
• Joint or Survivorship property
• Financial assets designated Payable on Death
• Property designated to Transfer on Death
• Life insurance with beneficiaries
• Retirement accounts with beneficiaries
What if there is no Will?
If the decedent did not have a Will, the law requires that a specific process be followed. The assets will be distributed to heirs according to the statute of decedents estates in Chapter 2113 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Our Firm dedicates a significant amount of time and resources to our probate practice, and it is our goal to make the probate process as easy as possible for you. We make the initial court filings in Probate Court within three to five weeks after our first meeting. The Court typically appoints the fiduciary within one month after we submit the initial filings. When you are appointed as fiduciary, Letters of Authority will be mailed to us. Prior to receiving those Letters of Authority, you will be unable to discover or collect many of the probate assets.
We will communicate regularly with you, and we will have multiple meetings throughout the process. There will be waivers, notices, and other documents to be signed, filed in Court, and/or delivered to heirs and beneficiaries. You are obligated to provide notice and communicate with the heirs and beneficiaries. Many of the people involved in this process will have the opportunity to either assist or delay us by quickly signing and returning documents or by objecting to filings and requesting hearings. There could be actual hearings in Court. The entire process typically takes between six months and one year. You should expect it to take much longer, if there are issues such as out-of-state real estate or uncooperative or difficult to locate heirs and beneficiaries.
Action steps in our Firm’s typical probate process include:
• 1st Client Meeting: identify probate & non-probate assets and discuss the immediate needs of the family.
• Choose the most appropriate probate process to administer this particular estate.
• Prepare an application and the initial forms for your signature.
• 2nd Client Meeting: sign initial forms.
• File the forms in Probate Court and request fiduciary appointment.
• Probate Court provides a case number, appoints you as fiduciary, and issues Letters of Authority.
• You gather the probate assets. An inventory of probate assets is created and filed in Probate Court.
• A final accounting is compiled. It is submitted to the beneficiaries and Probate Court for approval.
• Persons who paid certain estate expenses (i.e. funeral expenses) are reimbursed from the estate.
• Qualified creditors, in a specified order of priority, are paid by the estate.
• Tax returns, if necessary, are filed for the decedent and/or the estate. Taxes owed are paid by the estate.
• All other estate expenses, including attorney fees, are paid by the estate.
• You distribute assets to the beneficiaries, who acknowledge receipt.
• Probate Court officially closes the case.