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Navigating a Probate Estate

April 29, 2019 by Greg Port, J.D., M.B.A.


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A probate attorney will provide a smooth and efficient process, keep costs and fees reasonable, and provide your family the support they need.

With the death of a loved one comes grief and stress. You’ve got to support your own family through the moment and attend to the financial and administrative details of your loved one’s estate.

Many people find it helpful to hire an experienced attorney to provide guidance and sound legal advice throughout the process. Having an experienced guide to walk you through the administrative work, which can be lengthy and complicated, takes that weight off your shoulders.

Probate Court in Ohio

There are some circumstances under which no probate is required, such as when the deceased has placed the estate in a trust or in the event there are no assets to pass along to heirs.

However, if these conditions are not met, probate is required— even if a will exists. To handle the assets of a person after death, Ohio requires that, in the absence of a trust agreement, the next of kin (if there is no will) or the named executor (if there is a will) go through probate court.

The term probate comes from the Latin root word meaning ‘to prove’. There will be different rules applied if there's a will or no will. That said, the basic process will be the same.

Different types of probate case filings include: Real Estate Only (a piece of property), Released from Administration (if there are only a small amount of assets), and Full Estate (will, original death certificate, asking for permission to administer the case).

Administration of the Estate

The administration of a probate estate, or estate administration, generally involves 4 main steps:

  1. identifying property of the deceased,
  2. getting control of the property,
  3. paying bills and necessary expenses, and
  4. distributing the property to the beneficiaries.

The person eligible to administer a probate estate will be an Ohio resident who is either named as the executor in the will or, if there's no will, next of kin.

Either the executor or the next of kin has the choice of administering the probate estate themselves or requesting the probate attorney handle the administration.

Probate vs. Non Probate What is the Difference?

Why Hire a Probate Attorney?

The process can seem complicated, but a competent counselor will ensure that everything goes smoothly. Probate Attorneys resolve probate and trust cases only. They know the ins and outs of probate court rules, forms, procedures, court officials, and probate complications.

They perform the same tasks and see different versions of the same issues every day— they understand what's critical to your case.

Can Any Attorney Handle a Probate Case?

Any attorney likely knows a little bit about the probate process, or at least how the court process will work, but they don't know all the specifics that a practiced probate lawyer would know.


Think of it like this: If you need heart surgery, you wouldn't want an orthopedic surgeon who is trained specifically to operate on feet to work on your heart. Yes, your orthopedic surgeon learned all about the heart and surgery in medical school, but they are not a practiced hand at heart surgery.


Benefits of a Probate Attorney

Well-meaning friends or family members may offer to assist you through the probate process, providing legal services pro bono or at deeply discounted rates. As long as they have a license to practice law in the state where your loved one lived, they can do that, regardless of their legal specialty.

The probate process can be complicated and lengthy even without a learning curve, so asking a professional with no experience to provide you with the best, most expedient service may result in more hassle or fees in the end.

It is in your best interest to make sure anytime you hire an attorney they have expertise in the area of law in which you need assistance.

No upfront fees

Probate attorneys are paid when the case is finalized. Efficiencies gained during the probate process however can mean less time spent in court and fewer fees accumulated.

Dedicated time

Probate attorneys shoulder these responsibilities on your behalf and keep you apprised of the details. They spend their time focused on estate cases and can give you the necessary time and attention to resolve the case.

Faster resolution

They have the knowledge and experience to expedite the process and that can make a big difference in your peace of mind.

Liability

A probate attorney knows the right questions to ask at the outset and can even provide guidance on tax and trust issues if applicable. If there are any outstanding debts or unknown variables with potential to affect the case, it’s far better to discuss them early on with a professional well versed in the complications they may present.  An experienced probate attorney knows exactly what to ask ahead of time, saving time and energy later.

Minimal disputes

Probate attorneys minimize the chance of disputes by handling cases in the most efficient, effective, professional, and timely manner.

What can you expect from probate? Download our free guide.

What are the Costs Associated with Retaining a Probate Attorney?

As with most things in life, situations vary greatly; fees can as well. However, some general assumptions can be made when assessing the costs.

  • The county’s filing fee will likely range between $200 to $350.
  • There are no up front costs to start the process of probate; an attorney’s fees are paid only when the case is finalized and distributed using proceeds from the estate.
  • All probate fees must be approved by the court.

You should be aware, however, the more complex the case, the more time and expertise required. In some circumstances, these cases can take years to resolve. The resulting legal fees and expense reimbursements can add up over time and ultimately reduce the remaining value of the estate.

How Can a Probate Attorney Help Keep Costs Down?

An attorney specializing in the probate process can help reduce these types of costs as they are experts in navigating court rules, procedures and are familiar with the many issues that can arise throughout a case’s progress.

Questions to Ask about Cost

It’s a good idea to ask if there exists the possibility of additional or unexpected costs so that you are prepared if such a situation arises in the future.

Also, you’ll want to ask how an attorney bases their fees. Some base their fees upon a percentage of total assets within the estate. In some cases, this may be a fair way to determine reasonable fees, but in the instance of larger estates, this can be a costly and inefficient method of assessment.

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Finding the Right Probate Attorney

A couple of key questions can help you find the probate attorney that will provide a smooth and efficient process, keep costs and fees reasonable, and provide your family the support they need.

Here are a couple of key questions to ask:

  • What other areas of law do you practice?
  • What is the time frame in which you estimate my case to be resolved?
  • What potential issues do you see with my case?
  • How do you assess your fees? Hourly? Flat Fee?
  • How easily can I reach a paralegal or attorney if I have questions?

Don’t Handle the Process Alone

Has a loved one in your family passed away and suddenly you find yourself in the executor seat? Don't try to handle the process alone. Hiring a lawyer that specifically practices probate and estate law has many benefits, not just for your loved one's estate, but your own personal stress level. If you are looking for a probate lawyer to help handle an estate, contact us today.

 

Our consultations are completely free of charge and intended to equip you to make the best decision.

 


Topics: Probate, Ohio Probate, Probate Process, Ohio Estate Planning, Ohio Estate Planning Lawyer

Greg Port, J.D., M.B.A.

Written by Greg Port, J.D., M.B.A.

Port Legal founding attorney, Gregory Port has over 30 years experience. He has provided strategic corporate law representation in Central Ohio to clients since 1990. Gregory Port is a lawyer actively practicing in the areas of probate, estate planning, and real estate. His experience and core values are the cornerstones of Port Legal as a specialized advocate for your interests.