Probate & Estate Q & A

Probate of an estate often raises many questions. In this post, I’m going to answer the four most commonly asked questions about the probate process. First, though, a brief explanation of the process . . .

Probate begins when a Ohio probate lawyer, hired by the decedent’s heirs, files the person’s last will and testament with probate court. This opens the case. Then the Ohio probate attorney begins identifying and collecting the decedent’s assets and identifying the decedent’s legitimate creditors. Then creditors are paid from the assets, as are any estate or gift taxes that are due. Any assets that remain are then distributed to the decedent’s heirs according to instructions in the will and Ohio probate law.

Probate of an Estate: Answers to the 4 Most Common Questions

What Does It Cost?

The average cost to probate an estate in Ohio is 5% of the estate’s net value. If someone leaves a $1 million estate and only has a last will and testament, probate lawyer fees, court costs and other costs will total about $50,000.

However, the 5% cost figure only applies to estate assets that must be probated. Insurance policies and financial accounts with beneficiary designations do not have to be probated. Neither do any assets contained in a trust because those assets are governed by terms of the trust rather than probate law. Administrative costs for assets that do not need to be probated usually run about 1% of the assets’ value.

As you can see, probate of an estate can be quite expensive. In estate planning, our Number 1 goal is to keep your estate out of probate court. This is usually done by placing your assets in a trust. Read more about trusts in our Free Resources section.

How Long Does It Take?

In Ohio, the probate process takes an average of two years. The longest case I ever heard of took 11 years. The probate process can be delayed by several factors, including:

  • Family disputes
  • Hard-to-sell assets
  • Illiquid estates (decedent owes more to creditors than his/her estate is worth)
  • Heirs who are difficult to locate

Of course the longer the process goes on, the more expensive it is to probate an estate. Most of these difficulties can be eliminated through good estate planning and the use of trusts.

Is Everything Public?

Unfortunately, it is. Because probate court is public, all documents in a probate case, including the last will and testament, are public. Today, probate documents are more public than ever because many courts make documents available on the internet.

However, because trusts do not go through probate, trusts remain private. This is another good reason to place assets in a trust and dictate their distribution through the trust’s terms.

Why Do We Have Probate?

Probate exists to ensure that creditors and taxes are paid before a decedent’s assets are distributed. Probate also ensures that assets are distributed to the right people. The Ohio probate lawyer usually takes care of the process.

However, both of these objectives are also fulfilled through the use of trusts. In fact, trusts allow these objectives to be fulfilled more efficiently and with more control by the decedent than through probate of an estate.

Find Out How a Trust Can Benefit You and Your Heirs:

To find out more about trusts and how you can use them to avoid probate of your estate and have more control over your assets, please call us to arrange a Free Consultation. Simply call toll-free: 877-483-6730.