Probate and Estate Planning

Giulitto Law Office located in Ravenna, Ohio has attorneys who handle probate estate in the Portage County Probate Court. Giulitto Law Office also has lawyers who perform estate planning services including the preparation of a will, financial power of attorney, health power of attorney and a living will. Attorney Mary Anne Ravis has extensive experience handling estates in Portage County.

The Estate Process through Probate Proceedings

Probating an estate is a misunderstood area of the law.  Probate is a legal proceeding whereby a deceased individual’s (the decedent) probate property- the probate estate- is administered, debts are paid to creditors and property is passed by the individual’s will or by Ohio law.  Some individuals wish to avoid probate and probate avoidance techniques are discussed below.  However, probate avoidance is not for everybody and an attorney should be consulted to decide the best plan.

An important issue is to distinguish what is probate property and what is non-probate property.  Non probate property will not be part of the probate proceeding and include: transfer on death accounts, property held by the decedent jointly with survivorship rights, property that it is titled in trust, and insurance or retirement benefits with a named beneficiary.  This type of property will bypass the probate process.  However, non probate property is considered for federal estate tax purposes.  Ohio has abolished the estate tax for deaths after January 1, 2013.

Property not mentioned above in the decedent’s name will have to go through the probate process.  Probate is a process for the payment of outstanding debts, taxes and expenses of administration, and for the distribution of the remainder of the estate pursuant to the decedent’s will, or if the decedent had no will, then the distribution is governed by Ohio law.

Probating an estate requires a fiduciary to conduct the administration of the estate.  If there is a will, an executor is typically appointed by the will.  If there is no will or no person is named in the will, the fiduciary will be appointed by the court and is typically called the administrator.  The administrator or executor performs the following:

a) taking care of the decedent’s property; b) receiving payments that are due to the estate (interest, dividends, debts owed to the decedent, ect.); c) determining the validity of the decedent’s creditors and paying creditors accordingly; d)  filing federal, state and local income taxes owed by the decedent; e)  filing estate taxes if necessary; f)  distributing the remaining assets pursuant the decedent’s will or Ohio law.

The probate court supervises the work of the executor or administrator.  The work of the executor or administrator can be fairly complex and an attorney is highly recommended.  Legal documents must be prepared and filed with the Court, assets may need appraisal, an inventory of the assets must be completed and all tax work must be performed.

The length of time it takes to probate an estate depends and is hard to predict.  A simple estate may be completed in about six months while complex estate may take years to complete.   Luckily, a simpler procedure is available for some estates.

Relief from Administration

If the total value of probate property in the decedent’s name is $35,000 or less, the estate can be relieved from many of the aforementioned requirement.  If the decedent’s spouse is entitled to all the probate property, the amount is increased to $100,000.  This process is simpler but still requires the filing of important legal documents.  Legal fees will be less, but an attorney is still recommended.

Summary Release from Administration

Another simplified probate proceeding is called a summary release from administration.  This procedure would be appropriate if:  1.  there is no surviving spouse, the applicant paid the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses and those expenses do not exceed $5,000 or 2.  there is a surviving spouse who is entitled to receive all the assets and the value of the assets are less than $40,000 (up to $45,000 if the surviving spouse paid the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses).  These estates may be released from formal administration as well.  The process is simplified but requires the filing of important legal documents with the court.

Will Preparation

A will is a document that tells the world how you would like your assets to be disposed of upon death.  It is very important to draft a will so that your property is disposed of in accordance with your wishes.  Otherwise, Ohio law will control and may very well dispose of your assets in a manner inconsistent with your wishes.  There are important things to consider when drafting a will.  There may be contingencies that you may not think of.  Ohio law, such as rights of surviving spouses, need to be considered.  An attorney will recognize these factors.  That is why it is important to contact an attorney to go over your options.

Estate Planning to Bypass the Probate Process

It has become popular for individuals to plan their estate to bypass the probate estate.  This makes sense in some situations and not in other situations.  Ohio law allows for mechanisms where real estate can transfer outside the probate process.  However, if strict statutory rules are not followed, this may fail.  The titling of property is another way to avoid probate.  Accounts may be titled payable on death.  Also trusts may be drafted to avoid the probate process.  If you wish to avoid probate, you should speak with an attorney to discuss your best options.  Again, probate may be more cost effective.  Have an attorney analyze your options.

Speak with Portage County Estate attorney Mary Anne Ravis, located in Ravenna, Ohio for a FREE CONSULTATION on all your estate and probate needs.