Probate is the process to deal with the debts and property of someone who has died. If the decedent left a will, his or her property is distributed according to their expressed wishes. However, if the person died without a will (what the law calls “intestate”), the property is distributed according to Ohio law.
Not All Property Goes Through Probate
Not everything owned by a decedent goes through probate court after the person dies. For example, real estate is often held in the name of the decedent with another person — usually a spouse. In that situation, the property transfers to the other person outside of probate. Likewise, bank or investment accounts can be designated “transfer on death” and are then transferred to a named beneficiary without the need for probate. Automobiles are sometimes transferred this way as well. In addition, a decedent may have life insurance or retirement benefits that are payable to a named beneficiary outside of probate.
Appointing an Executor or Administrator
Probate proceedings take place in a specialized court in the county where the decedent lived. A person is appointed by the probate court to administer the estate. If there is a will, that person is identified by the decedent as the “executor.” If there is no will, the probate court appoints an “administrator.” The executor or administrator serve multiple functions, including marshalling the decedent’s property, determining heirs and beneficiaries, and collecting monies owed to the decedent, etc. There are often debts or other obligations that must be paid by the executor or administrator from the decedent’s property.
The value of the property owned by the decedent can impact the costs and length of probate. Because of the complexity of these procedures, it is important that you or your family consult attorneys with experience handling probate matters. Please call the probate & estate planning lawyers at Wuliger & Wuliger at 781-7777 so that we can assist you.