Probate is a legal proceeding to determine the decedent’s assets, their value, and the method of distribution to heirs. Probate takes place in the probate court of the county where the decedent resided. The probate court is the division of the county common pleas court that is responsible for adoptions, guardianships, marriage licenses, and managing estates after a person dies. Probate is necessary to protect the decedent’s assets for the estate heirs, creditors, and beneficiaries. Probate enables (1) paying the decedent’s debts, taxes, and administration expenses; and (2) distributing the remainder of the decedent’s estate to its beneficiaries.
Probating an estate requires appointing a person to conduct the administration of the estate. If there is a will, this person is usually named in the will and called an executor. If there is no will, this person is appointed by the probate court and called an administrator. The executor or administrator may be a person, bank, or trust company.
The executor or administrator handles the following tasks: protecting the decedent’s property;receiving payments and income due the estate; collecting debts, claims, and notes due the decedent; determining the names, ages, residences, and degree of relationship of all heirs; investigating the validity of all claims against the estate and paying all outstanding obligations including federal, state, and local estate and income taxes; planning for federal and state taxes; carrying out the instructions of the probate court pertaining to the estate; and distributing the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries. The probate court judge supervises the work of the executor or administrator.
These actions require preparing and filing numerous legal documents, publishing notices, attending court hearings, appraising the assets, completing income tax and possibly gift and estate tax returns, inventorying and accounting for funds, and transferring assets to beneficiaries. The average estate administration usually lasts no more than one year, although an extraordinary case involving a contested will or complicated tax litigation may take several years.
The process of probating an estate involves many steps and often has complexities that require strict attention to detail. Our experienced staff at Roberson Law can provide you the piece of mind needed to insure that the administration of the estate is being handled correctly and ease the burden on the heirs during this difficult time. Contact our caring and compassionate staff to find out how we can help.
If the total value of all property in the decedent's individual name is less than $35,000, the estate can be relieved from most of these administrative requirements. Nevertheless, in many estates, an Ohio estate tax return must be prepared and filed; and if the decedent also owned a substantial amount of life insurance or property jointly titled with other persons, a federal estate tax return may have to be filed.