How Does the Probate Process Work?

Probate is the legal process by which a court formally recognizes that a will is valid and supervises the executor, who carries out the deceased person’s last wishes as explained in the will. If a person dies without a will or estate plan, probate is the legal process by which the court supervises the carrying out of the person’s last wishes according to the rules set by Ohio law.

Many people who are called upon to act as an executor are new to the probate court and the probate process. Although each state handles the process a little differently, all have common elements. These include:

  1. The executor, a relative, or a creditor files a petition with the probate court to begin the probate process. This is commonly known as “opening the probate estate.”
  2. The Probate Court appoints the executor formally, or names an administrator if there is no will or if the executor named in the will cannot or will not serve.
  3. The Probate Court makes sure that the will is valid. If the will is valid, the executor will follow the instructions left in the will. If the will is not valid or there is no will, the executor will follow the instructions given by state law.
  4. The executor formally notifies the spouse, next of kin and other beneficiaries of the death and the fact that the estate has been opened.
  5. The executor inventories all the assets and debts owned by the estate. Many probate courts provide forms to make this process easier, since the final inventory has to be filed with the court. If property does not have a ready ascertainable value, it needs to be appraised. The executor is charged with finding a qualified appraiser to do the work.
  6. Probate Court is required to approve the inventory after all the interested parties are given notice of its filing.
  7. The executor pays the estate’s debts and taxes and distributes any assets that are left to the individuals or charities named in the will (or to the individuals named in state law if there is no will).
  8. The executor is required to file a Final Account with the Probate Court and provide notice of its filing to all interested parties. The Court will schedule the Final Account for hearing and if there are no filed objections, it will approve the Final Account and close the estate.

This process takes anywhere from a few months to a multiple years, depending on the size and complexity of the estate and the cooperation of the interested parties. This process can be a great deal of work and generally requires the assistance of a good probate attorney.

Gudorf Law Group can help with all elements of the probate process. If you’re confused or overwhelmed by your obligations, of if you need insight into probate related obstacles or problems, call us for a private, free consultation at 1-937-898-5583 today.