Estate administration, commonly called "probate," is the court supervised process of transferring property owned by a deceased person to his/her heirs or beneficiaries. It is the process of identifying the decedent's property, making an inventory, appraising the value of the assets, listing debts, paying creditors and taxes (if any), then distributing the balance of assets to the heirs or beneficiaries of the deceased person.
Property may be transferred outside of probate court by the legal relationship established in the document of ownership such as a deed, title, financial account, or other binding, legal document. Such property may be transferred outside of the estate administration process.
The fiduciary is the person who represents the deceased person in administering the estate. He or she may be a family member, a person named in a will, or another interested person. The court appoints the fiduciary.
Estates of persons who die having prepared a valid will before their death are referred to as "testate" estates. The distribution of the assets is controlled by the language of the will — subject to some legal exceptions.
Estates of persons who die without a valid will are referred to as "intestate" estates, and the distribution of their assets is determined by a law called the Statute of Descent and Distribution, found in Ohio Revised Code §2105.06.
An executor is the fiduciary of a testate estate. An administrator is a fiduciary in an intestate estate.
Fiduciaries are usually bonded. The bond is a specialized type of insurance policy which protects the heirs from any loss of estate assets by the fiduciary. The bond is a legal requirement intended to protect the heirs and beneficiaries of the deceased person's estate. In many instances, however, the terms of the will waive the obligation of the executor to obtain a bond.
Estate taxes and/or a tax return may be required, depending on the value of the decedent's estate and other circumstances. The Ohio Estate Tax was repealed on January 1, 2013. However, a person who passed away prior to that date may be subject to the Ohio Estate Tax. You may contact the Ohio Department of Taxation or a tax professional to determine if an estate is subject to Ohio Estate Tax. Some estates must file federal estate tax returns. Information on Federal Estate and Gift Tax and tax forms can be found on the web site for the Internal Revenue Service.
Under limited circumstances, where the decedent only owned a few assets with low value, the assets may be transferred without going through the full estate administration. There is also a process referred to as a summary release from administration for small estates of low value.
The information contained on this web site is not legal advice, nor should it substitute for the assistance of a qualified attorney. Good legal assistance can speed up the court process and prevent costly legal errors.