Before we discuss how to avoid probate in Ohio, we should begin by asking why people want to avoid probate.
There are a number of reasons Ohioans may want to avoid probate.
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.
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.
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.