The death of one close to us is a difficult reality to face, and the formal probate process that follows doesn’t make things any easier. If you are named executor or administrator of an estate, you have the responsibility for transferring the decedent’s assets, filing the final income tax return, and settling any outstanding debts. In some cases, while the probate process can be simple to navigate in other cases there are numerous factors that can complicate the process.
If you face probate and have any questions, the Mount Vernon probate lawyers at Sheppard Law Offices are here to help. Contact us today for the legal counsel you need to make the probate process as simple as possible.
IS PROBATE NECESSARY?
In some cases, our probate lawyers can significantly simplify or bypass the probate process altogether. There are even timing strategies to consider as to when to file a probate case. This strategy usually involves lurking creditors of the decedent’s estate. There are some probate cases that proceed through a shortened probate process depending on the size and other factors of the estate.
Depending how the decedent owned real and personal property at his or her death will guide what actions need to be followed in order to handle the affairs of the decedent. For example, if there is joint ownership of property with rights of survivorship, then that property does not pass through probate court. That type of asset is handled outside the realm of probate. Of course, there would still need to be work performed in this case to properly transfer the property to the surviving joint owner. We call this “estate administration”.
The common thread that determines whether property must pass through probate is how the asset is titled at the time of the decedent’s death. If the decedent owned property in his or her individual name, then the property would need to be administered through probate. “Estate administration” is the handling of assets that do not pass through probate. Another example of estate administration is the disbursement of life insurance proceeds where a beneficiary is named on the policy and the name is someone other than the decedent. This type of asset does not pass through probate.
Our attorneys can simplify the probate process
Our attorneys can simplify the probate process when the estate’s value is less than a certain dollar amount. Where a full estate administration case can last 9 months or longer, smaller cases can be handled within a few months, even a few weeks. Knox County, Ohio allows for certain shorter probate processes to take place. Some of these shortened probate processes are called Relief from Administration and Summary Release from Administration.
The Probate Process
For those who have never had to deal with it before, the probate process can be somewhat confusing. We break down the process into individual steps. It is much easier to comprehend when you use the trusted Mt. Vernon probate lawyers at Sheppard Law Offices because you can expect legal assistance on all of the following steps.
- Authenticate Last Will & Testament
- Appoint Executor & Name Beneficiaries
- Post Bond (if necessary)
- Locate Assets
- Assess Value of Assets
- Identify & Pay Debts
- File Taxes
- Distribute Assets
The first step in the probate process is to submit the original Last Will & Testament to the probate court for authentication. Those persons listed on the Will (i.e. heirs) and even those not listed on the Will have the opportunity to attend a hearing and object to the validity of the Will. These people will also have the opportunity to object to the appointment of the executor. If no one objects or after adjudication of this issue, the probate court will have proof of the Will’s authenticity.
An executor is a person named in the Last Will & Testament who is responsible for the deceased party’s affairs throughout the probate process. If the deceased party did not leave a Will, the probate judge will appoint someone. This person is called an administrator. Typically, close living relatives such as the surviving spouse, children, or siblings apply to be named as executor or administrator.
A bond acts as insurance against any errors committed by the executor or administrator of the estate. In many cases, when a lawyer drafts a Will, the Will states that no bond is required. In most cases, this step is satisfied because the Will provides that no bond is required. However, if the deceased did not leave a Will or the Will does not explicitly state that no bond is needed, the probate court will require one.
The executor or administrator then locates the assets of the estate and values them. An appraiser may be necessary in some cases. This step can be tedious and require extensive review of the decedent’s personal records and other documentation. It is crucial to perform a comprehensive search as individuals sometimes have assets that nobody else knows about, and there may be little documentation that accounts for their assets.
Once the executor identifies all assets, the probate judge will want a determination of the assets’ total value. This may require obtaining county auditor records, NADA or Kelly Blue Book valuations, financial institution statements and records, etc. As stated above, an appraiser may be necessary to help you determine certain assets’ value such as jewelry and real estate.
With the value of assets determined, the next step is to identify, evaluate and pay any remaining debts of the decedent. When filing the probate case, the executor or administrator must notify all creditors of the debtor’s death. In Ohio, creditors have six months to file a claim against the estate in order to receive any portion of its claim. For this reason, one strategy often employed in handling a probate case is to wait until after six months of the deceased’s date of death to file the probate case. Once six months have passed from the date of death and no claim has been filed by a creditor, the creditor’s claim is forever barred in the state of Ohio. In the case where a creditor’s claim is properly submitted with the probate court, the executor or administrator can either pay the claim or object to it. If the estate does not possess the dollar amount required to satisfy the claim, the claim may be paid in part given the availability of estate assets.
The executor or administrator is also responsible for paying income, property, and any other taxes that the estate owed at the time of death. Our probate lawyers are here to help prepare or appeal the estate’s taxes.
Once the executor or administrator pays the estate’s debts, taxes, and costs of administration, he or she will then distribute the remaining assets to the appropriate parties.
Mount Vernon, Ohio Probate Lawyers
At Sheppard Law Offices, our Mount Vernon probate lawyers are here to help you get through this challenging and confusing time. We help many individuals in Mount Vernon, Fredericktown, Centerburg, Howard, Danville, Utica and surrounding Knox County cities address probate and estate administration issues. If you find yourself responsible for the handling of a probate or estate administration, we are here to help. Contact us today and we can discuss with you the best ways to navigate through the probate process.