What to Know About Avoiding Probate Ohio and Inheritance Laws

If you’ve recently experienced a death in the family, you’re probably dealing with an overwhelming sense of loss. Grief can fill your life when someone you love passes, but other responsibilities don’t stop. During your time of grieving, you must also ensure the decedent’s estate is managed and dispersed as outlined in the will.

There is a legal responsibility with an estate of a deceased person. Probate is the process where the person’s wishes are honored after their death according to the will. If you’re an heir or otherwise involved in an estate, you need to understand the basics of how probate works.

Is Ohio Probate a Requirement?

In most cases, probate is required in Ohio. While there are a few exceptions, most estates will go through the probate process. It can be a simple process or a more complicated situation, which can take more time and require the assistance of an attorney.

Scales of Justice weighing time and money

How Do You Avoid Probate in Ohio

Even though most estates will need to go through the probate process, there are ways to avoid it. The best option comes from estate planning. When you create an irrevocable or revocable living trust, the assets of your estate can be placed in the trust and then automatically go to the beneficiaries you select. There is no need for probate at all in this scenario.

In other cases, you may be able to add a beneficiary to the assets directly. For example, most life insurance policies, bank accounts, and retirement accounts have someone named as the beneficiary. Married couples generally name each other and/or their children to inherit their assets. These assets won’t need to be included in probate even if other assets of the estate do. Ohio allows real estate to be transferred through a transfer on death deed, which keeps it out of probate.

Can an Executor of an Estate in Ohio be Compensated?

Ohio allows for executors and administrators to be compensated for the work they do. However, it also states that they can’t profit off the estate.

Money falling into hands of an executor of an estate

How Much Does an Executor in Ohio Get Paid?

Section 2113.35 of the Ohio Revised Statutes states that executors and administrators are allowed payment for their services based on the amount of the property value as well as from proceeds of any real property that was sold. The rate is based on the following:

Along with this amount, they can receive one percent of any real property that isn’t sold. Also in this section, it states that the court may reduce the compensation to what it considers proper if the executor or administrator didn’t perform their duties adequately. The court can also deny compensation in certain cases.

How Long Does Probate in Ohio Take?

Expect that most estates going through probate in Ohio will take between six months to a year. Creditors have six months to file a claim against the estate, which means it can’t be completed prior to that.

Estates using the simplified version of succession may have probate wrapped up in two to four months. Larger or more complex estates could easily take well over a year to get through the delays.

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in Ohio?

Most estates will need to go through probate in Ohio unless they are part of a living trust. However, there are different types of probate, and some estates may qualify for a simplified version.

The estate must be small, which may be defined as valued at no more than $100,000 if the spouse is the sole heir or at $35,000 or less in other situations. Probate isn’t necessary at all if the value of the estate is under $5,000.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in Ohio?

A will must be filed with the court in Ohio even if the estate doesn’t need to go through probate. The court has the task of establishing the validity of the will if there is any question.

What is Intestate Succession?

When a person dies without a will, it is called dying intestate. Succession is simply another word for probate. Ohio intestacy laws guide the legal handling of the assets and belongings of someone who died without a will (intestate succession).

Under Ohio intestate succession laws, when a person dies without a will, asset distribution depends on your family situation. For example, if you have children and a spouse, your spouse will inherit your estate. However, if your spouse is deceased, then your estate would pass to your children.

Don’t Assets Automatically Pass to the Surviving Spouse?

According to Ohio law, if the decedent owned property with someone else in joint tenancy, then that property will automatically pass to the other owner. Often married couples hold property in joint tenancy, when they acquire that property together, such as their home, vehicle, and bank accounts. These estate assets will automatically pass to the joint tenant, who is typically the surviving spouse.

What Assets Transfer on Death?

Estate assets that generally transfer on death are not included in probate in Ohio. Bank accounts can be designated ‘payable on death’ so that when the owner dies, the accounts are transferred to the beneficiary. Transfer on death deeds allow real estate to pass to the deceased person’s designated beneficiary without probate. Securities like stocks and bonds and personal property like vehicles can all be registered to transfer on death.

Settling an Estate in Ohio

Settling an estate in Ohio is similar to what happens in other states. It’s a good idea to understand the basics even if you aren’t responsible for taking care of the estate.

The court will review any contests against the will or any other disputes that may arise during the process.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death in Ohio?

Under the law in Ohio, you must file probate within a year after the person’s death if you have the will or know of its existence. Failure to do so could impact your inheritance. While there isn’t a strict deadline or criminal consequences, it is a serious issue if you hold onto the will. It’s always best to file as soon as possible to reduce the risk of having the validity of the will questioned.

Hourglass showing passing of time

Probate Court in Ohio

Originally, Ohio developed a separate court for probate, but it was later added to the Courts of Common Pleas. This court is a trial court, which handles various topics, including probate. Each county has its own Court of Common Pleas, and some courts have a separate probate division. You can find the court for the county where the decedent resided on the Ohio Supreme Court website: Ohio Trial Courts & Local Rules.