Going to probate court alone is a big decision that will have an impact on your life throughout the probate process. And, as the state of Ohio has not yet adopted the Uniform Probate Code (UPC), a set of laws designed to simplify the probate process, your court case could become more complicated than you expect.
Fully understanding the probate process and what it requires of you the executor, (or administrator if there is no will) helps in determining if you're ready to stand on your own in the courtroom. Here are a few things to consider.
Does Ohio Probate Court Require a Lawyer?
The short answer is no, but you should consider the different circumstances that can lead to probate court. The process can be tedious and complicated, and having a guide to assist you through this tough terrain can make the process go more smoothly.
The more complicated an estate is the more likely you are to benefit from professional legal guidance during the probate. An estate with a lot of property, a business and or many high-value items will require some legal assistance due to the sheer number of assets and legalities involved.
Similarly, if family members are already contesting the estate you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Probate lawsuits are often expensive and drain a lot of money from the estate of the deceased, as well as, cause significant damage to familial relationships so it's best to avoid this complication before it even arises.
Financial State of Assets
You should take a quick inventory of the financial state of the assets. If there are competing creditors, real estate or automobiles to transfer, or a 401k or retirement plan with stocks to liquidate, administering the estate without counsel will be difficult. Refer to our blog on the duties of the executor or administrator in a probate estate and determine if you feel comfortable with these tasks.
How Long Does Probate Court Take?
Average Probate Length
A probate case typically concludes between 6 and 9 months after its filing with the court. Because creditors have six months from the time of notification in which to make a claim on any monies owed, even a speedy probate case takes at least this much time.
On the off-chance that the estate owes state or federal taxes (99 percent do not), the case can take up to a year or more to conclude. Ohio’s limit on any probate case is 13 months.
Additionally, if an heir or beneficiary files a will contest, arguing that the deceased was unduly influenced or not of sound mind during the signing of the will, the case can take even longer. However, claimants only have four months from the date of receiving the probate notice to bring a will contest claim forward so a missed deadline will not impact the length of the legal process.
How much does probate cost?
While court costs for probate proceedings in the state of Ohio are usually somewhere between $200 and $250, the cost is often much higher once all costs are considered.
Attorney fees vary depending on the person. Some attorneys charge a percentage of the assets and some charge hourly. Rates can vary widely.
If you consider hiring any attorney make sure you speak with as many as it takes to become comfortable with the person and billing method.
The executor or administrator is also permitted to take a fee for the time needed to complete their tasks. In Ohio, these fees are capped at 4% of the first $100,00 in assets, 3% of the next $300,000 and 2% of assets above $400,000.
Many executors and administrators who are family members choose not to take this fee as it is taxable income. Keep in mind that you may choose to allow your attorney to be the administrator to relieve the family from the stress.
The death of a loved one is devastating and the pressure of managing their assets in probate may seem like an additional struggle. But the more you know about the probate process, the better you can decide how you want to honor your loved one's memory.
We are happy to answer your questions.