The circumstances related to receiving an inheritance can make for a stressful time for family members. This is only compounded by the sometimes confusing details of the will and all the related legal processes.
Fortunately, the law has put mechanisms in place to protect beneficiaries to assure that the proper distributions are made to the proper beneficiaries. The primary method used is the probate bond.
What is Probate?
It is required by law that a will be probated (latin for “proved”) by filing the will into court after one’s death. The probate procedure makes the will a legal record and formally recognizes an executor to be responsible for gathering the assets, paying bills and finally distributing the inheritance.
Probate is also necessary when there is no will. An Administrator is appointed, usually a family member, to perform the same duties as an Executor would when there is a will. In the instance where no family member wishes to be appointed the Administrator, an attorney can fulfill that roll.
The probate procedure through the county probate court protects the beneficiaries as well as holders of the deceased’s assets and their creditors. The court assures that the duties of the Executor or Administrator are handled properly pursuant to the law.
An order from the probate court called a Letter of Authority is required by financial institutions so they are protected from the consequences of accidentally giving the assets described in a will to the wrong person. This is a great protection for the banks as well as the beneficiaries to ensure the decedent’s wishes and the law of Ohio are followed.
What is a Probate Bond?
A probate bond is an insurance policy taken out which insures that the executor or administrator properly distributes the assets of the estate to creditors and beneficiaries. In the instance that a creditor or beneficiary believes after the conclusion of the case that fraud was committed, they can sue the executor/administrator and the bond will pay the judgment.
The amount of the bond is determined by the value of personal assets owned by the deceased. A bond must be secured for twice the amount of the personal assets (not including real estate,) with a minimum bond required of $40,000 for $20,000 of assets or below.
Is a Probate Bond Required?
In Ohio a probate bond is required where there is no will or the will does not do away with its requirement. Most wills drafted by attorneys will eliminate the bond requirement to make the process easier for the surviving family.
An experienced probate attorney can help determine if the probate bond is necessary.
How Much Does a Probate Bond Cost in Ohio?
In Ohio, the cost for a probate bond depends on the total value of the estate and is usually calculated as costing $100 for every $20,000 in assets. For example, if the deceased had $60,000 in non-real estate assets, the estate must purchase a bond in the amount of $120,000 and the cost is $300 per year.
Once the bond is secured, it works much like any other kind of bond or insurance. If a decedent’s beneficiaries or creditors find fault with the executor’s handling of the estate, they can file a claim against the bond. If their claim is deemed valid, the insurance company pays what is owed to them according to the will or the Ohio laws on descent and distribution.
Who Can Be Bonded?
Bonding companies have minimum requirements for issuing a probate bond. A credit score of 620 or above is a common requirement. Also, whether a person has had a previous bankruptcy, criminal conviction or judgment lien can also be relevant.
The bonding company will require a short application be submitted. If one bonding company declines issuance, an application with another company can be submitted.
What Happens if No Family Member Can Be Bonded?
Where no family member is accepted for coverage, a probate attorney can act as the Executor or Administrator. It is common that attorneys act as the executor or administrator. In many instances, a family member is qualified to be bonded, but the family chooses the attorney to be the executor/administrator for ease of administration and to take the burden from the family.
Do you have questions about planning the division of your estate? For more than 25 years Gregory Port has been helping families in Central Ohio successfully navigate estate planning and probate law. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and get the answers you need to preserve your estate for your loved ones.