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 The Ohio Estate Tax was repealed on January 1, 2013.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.

Full Administration With A Will Or Without A Will

When a person dies and leaves assets in their name, certain steps must be taken to transfer those assets to their heirs or beneficiaries of that person’s estate.  There are two types of assets:  probate assets and non-probate assets.  Probate assets are those that must be transferred through the Probate Court and include, but are not limited to, bank accounts, real estate, automobiles, and personal items that are titled solely in the name of the decedent.  Non-probate assets are those that automatically transfer upon death, such as jointly held bank accounts with rights of survivorship, life insurance policies with a designated beneficiary, real estate that is jointly held through a survivorship deed or under a transfer upon death designation affidavit.

Probate assets transfer to beneficiaries with the supervision of the Probate Court in either of two ways:  through the directives contained in a property executed will, or if there is no will through the application of the Ohio statutes of descent and distribution. 

There is no statutory limit on the value of probate assets that can be transferred through a full administration.  It is the only option for larger estates and it is often the method choice for even smaller estates.  Consultation with an attorney experienced in probate court procedures is recommended when contemplating a full estate administration. 

Items necessary and suggested to file a full administration:

  1. Decedent must have been a Wayne County resident at death;
  2. A copy of the decedent’s Death Certificate;
  3. If probating a Will, prior to filing the Will consider obtaining all of the necessary Waivers of Notice from those persons and entities listed on both sides of the Form 1.0, and complete the Certificate of Service;
  4. If there is a surviving spouse and a Will, consider obtaining prior to filing the Spousal Election (either Form 8.1 or 8.2, as applicable) and Waiver of Service of Citation to Surviving Spouse ( Form 8.6);
  5. The base court cost deposit is $125; and
  6. Complete the applicable Probate Forms found below.

Note:  The Estate Tax filings are not required for estates of decedents dying on or after January 1, 2013.

Release From Administration

Under RC 2113.03, a surviving spouse may inherit the entire estate, without administration, if the value of the gross estate is $100,000.00 or less.  If there is not a surviving spouse, the heir(s) may be entitled to inherit without administration provided the gross estate has a value of less than $35,000.00.  In either instance relatively minimal relief proceedings are required to be filed with the probate court

The guidelines for the determination can be found on the APPLICATION TO RELIEVE ESTATE FROM ADMINISTRATION, Form 5.0.  Also, the frequently asked questions set forth below should be considered. The local rules should also be reviewed.

Items necessary to file a Release from Administration with a Will:

  1. A copy of the decedent’s Death Certificate;
  2. Paid funeral bill with proof of who paid the funeral bill;
  3. If you are probating the Will, you will need Waivers from those listed on both sides of the Form 1.0, or give Notice of Admission of the Will to them and then file the Certificate of Service of Notice of Probate of Will (Form 2.4) with proofs of service or waivers.  There will be an additional Twenty dollar ($20.00) filing fee if the will is admitted;
  4. If you are filing the Will “For Record Only”, you will need to present the original will and the Application to File Will For Record Only (DCPC Form 2.0R).  There is an additional Five dollar ($5.00) filing fee for this filing;
  5. If there is no will, waivers from any family members who would also have the right to inherit under the Ohio statute of descent and distribution;
  6. The base court cost deposit is $125; and
  7. Complete the Probate Forms listed below that are applicable.

Note:  The Estate Tax filings are not required for decedents dying after December 31, 2012.

Summary Release from Administration

Under RC 2113.031, a Summary Release from Administration may be filed under only two circumstances:

  1. If the surviving spouse is entitled to one hundred percent (100%) of the family allowance, the gross probate estate does not exceed forty-five thousand dollars ($45,000.00), and the funeral bill has been prepaid or the surviving spouse paid the funeral bill; or
  2. If the applicant is not the surviving spouse, has paid (or is obligted in writing to pay) the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses, and the value of the probate estate does not exceed the lesser of five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) or the amount of the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses.

Items necessary to file a Summary Release from Administration:

  1. A copy of the decedent’s Death Certificate (the Deputy Clerk will make a copy and return the certified copy);
  2. Funeral bill which indicates who paid the funeral expenses, or who is obligated in writing to pay them;
  3. Complete a Medicaid Recovery Acknowledgment form;
  4. The base court cost deposit is $125; and
  5. Complete the applicable Probate Forms listed below. 

Note: The Application must be signed in the presence of either a Notary Public or a Deputy Clerk of this Court.

Note:  The Estate Tax filings are not required for decedents dying after December 31, 2012.

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.

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