Q: What is Probate?
A: When a person passes away, probate is a legal proceeding held in the county Probate Court to administer a person’s estate. This includes determining the extent and value of the decedent’s assets, determining and settling the valid debts of the decedent, and distributing any remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries. A lawyer can help you step-by-step through these proceedings and make sure that all aspects of probate are taken care of.
Q: Who will manage my estate?
A: If you make a will, you may name the person you want to take care of your estate (the executor). If you do not make a will, the probate court will appoint someone (the administrator). The person may or may not be someone you know, but closest living relatives are given preference.
Q: What is included in my estate?
A: When one dies, assets that are still in your name must be passed on and titled to your heirs. These may include your house, car, bank accounts, retirement and savings plans, household belongings, and any other property you may own. However, estate planning done in advance may exclude certain items from your estate. Consult an experienced lawyer to help you determine what is included in the estate.
Q: What if my relatives don’t discover property that should have been included in my estate?
A: Ideally, everyone should have a Last Will & Testament and leave behind a list of their assets to help their loved ones properly include everything in the estate administration. But things do get overlooked, no matter how much planning is done. Assets for which there is an unknown owner are required to go to the state’s unclaimed funds depository, where they are held until the person or their heirs claims them.
Q: Does a will help my family avoid the Probate process and expense?
A: Not really. In Ohio, whether you pass away with or without a will, most estates must be administered through the Probate Court. However, a will may cut down on certain expenses by waiving the requirement for the executor to post a bond or by including provisions for reducing estate taxes.