How Can I Avoid Probate in Ohio?

Before we discuss how to avoid probate in Ohio, we should begin by asking why people want to avoid probate.

Why Do Ohioans Want to Avoid Probate?

Gavel with Last Will & TestamentThere are a number of reasons Ohioans may want to avoid probate.

  1. Delayed Access to Cash and Other Assets. When your estate goes through probate, it can take weeks or even months for your loved ones to gain access to estate assets. During that time, your family may have to pay ongoing expenses like property insurance payments, utilities, taxes, storage fees, and attorney’s fees.
  2. Cost. Probate does cost money. While Ohio has eliminated the estate (inheritance) tax, there are still fees and expenses associated with the probate process. Also, your family should hire an experienced probate and estate planning attorney to guide them through the process, making sure that the necessary documents are filed properly and on time.
  3. It is a Public Record. Because probate is a state court proceeding, and because court documents are public records, anyone can go to the courthouse and ask to see the entire probate file for any estate.
  4. Waiting for Court Approval. Once you are gone, the probate court supervises what your executor proposes doing with your assets. This means that a probate court judge may need to make a ruling on whether a business or other assets can be sold, and the decision to spend money on necessary repairs to real estate or other property.
  5. Additional Stress. Your family will already be grieving. Going through an unfamiliar process can add additional stress to an already difficult time.
  6. Avoiding Creditor Claims. Assets that transfer outside of probate are much less susceptible to creditor claims, because the beneficiary can claim the asset in many cases by simply presenting a death certificate and identification. In probate court however, creditors can make claims against the assets of the deceased for 6 months.

Probate Court Oversees the Transfer of Assets

In theory, probate is supposed to be a simple and straight-forward process. It is the court-supervised process of transferring title and ownership of your assets, like your home, vehicles, bank accounts, etc., according to the terms of your Last Will and Testament, or according to the laws of the State of Ohio, when there is no will. Probate of an estate can take between 8 and 12 months to complete. But when there are significant debts or family disagreements, the process can take much longer. When money is involved, often probate brings out the least desirable personality traits in litigants.

Why You Should Avoid Probate to the Extent You Can

While probate is not an inherently bad thing, it is still a good idea to avoid probate, to the extent that you can. Only certain assets are subject to probate. An experienced Ohio estate planning and probate attorney can use these strategies to title your assets to minimize the percentage of your total estate that is subject to probate court oversight.

Joint Ownership. Jointly owned assets are not subject to probate. When one owner dies, the joint assets simply transfer to the other owner. By titling bank accounts and real estate in the name of two people, making them joint accounts, you can reduce the percentage of your total estate that is subject to probate.

Insurance Policy Beneficiaries. By naming beneficiaries on your insurance policies and other investment accounts, those assets will transfer according to their terms upon your death, without the need for probate court oversight.

Transfer on Death and Payable on Death Provisions. Many assets can be transferred using a Transfer on Death (TOD) or Payable on Death (POD) provision. By including a TOD provision on your real estate, those assets will not be subject to probate court approval and instead will pass directly to the designated beneficiary upon your death. An attorney can prepare the transfer in his or her office. Similarly, you can place a POD provision on your bank and other accounts. By choosing this option you retain full control of the account during your lifetime, but the assets transfer to the POD beneficiary upon your death.

Trusts. A trust is another way to avoid probate, when properly done. A trust is essentially a contract between you and the trustee on how to manage your assets. An Ohio probate and estate planning attorney can create a trust. By creating and funding a trust, the assets placed in the trust are governed by the trust terms and do not go through probate. Instead, the assets will be transferred according to the terms of the trust. Trust administration is handled privately, without probate court oversight. While there is a cost to setting up a trust, it can be less expensive than the probate court process, especially when there are a lot of assets or a lot of beneficiaries.

If you are considering having a trust prepared, contact an experienced and knowledgeable Ohio probate and estate planning attorney who will work with you to understand your estate planning objectives, and prepare a trust to meet your estate planning goals.

Need Help with Your Ohio Estate Planning and Probate Needs? Contact Wolfe Legal Services Today

There are many reasons you might want to avoid probate. To discuss your estate planning needs with an experienced and knowledgeable Ohio probate and estate planning attorney, contact Wolfe Legal Services today. I work with people throughout greater Columbus, including Dublin, Bexley, Upper Arlington, New Albany, Marysville, Hilliard, Delaware, and Newark, and throughout Franklin County, Delaware County, Pickaway County, Fairfield County, Union County, and Licking County. Call (614) 263-5297 any time or complete our online form.

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