Estate Planning Attorney (Wills & Trusts), Probate Estate Administration Attorney, Real Estate Attorney & Business Attorney are our main lawyer service areas. Law Firm for clients in Cleveland, OH, Akron, OH, & headquartered in Hudson, OH.

phone icon330.665.5000
divider

Probate Administration

Probate Administration Explained by Local Probate Lawyer

separator

Probate Court

Probate Court, Probate Estate Administration and Decedent’s Estates

Valente Law, LLC provides comprehensive and compassionate probate Court, probate estate administration and decedent’s estates services to clients in Cuyahoga County, Summit County and surrounding areas.  Whether you’re planning ahead for your own passing, or administering the estate of a loved one upon their death, you can count on Valente Law to help you navigate the probate court process.

The Purpose of Probate Court in Ohio

In Ohio, the purpose of the probate court is to accomplish the following main objectives.

  1. Account for All of the Decedent’s Assets
  2. Account for All of the Decedent’s Debts
  3. Pay all of Decedent’s Debts
  4. Distribute the Remaining Assets to the Decedent’s Heirs
  5. Appoint Guardians for All Minor Children

Rights of Surviving Spouse

The surviving spouse of a decedent, is entitled to certain property and has specific rights that he or she may enforce.  Chapter 2106 of the Ohio Revised Code controls the rights of Surviving Spouses. Surviving Spouses have the right to elect to take whatever the Decedent’s Will provides, or elect to take whatever they would have received if they died without having a Will.  Another right that Ohio law affords to surviving spouses, is the right to keep the personal residence, referred to as the Mansion House.  Additionally, surviving spouses are permitted to keep 2 vehicles of the decedent.

If you are a surviving spouse and your wife or husband passed away, you should contact us immediately to ensure that you receive everything to which you are entitled.

Who are the Beneficiaries of the Estate

The Decedent’s Will should identify the beneficiaries of the estate.  If the Decedent didn’t have a Will, then the Statute of Descent and Distribution controls who the heirs are and what they are entitled to.  Ohio Revised Code Section 2105.06 describes identifies the Decedent’s heirs and the amount they are to receive from the estate.

Local Probate Courts

We regularly practice in the the Courts within the greater Cleveland, Akron areas.  This includes the following Courts.

Cuyahoga County Probate Court

The Cuyahoga County Probate Court is located in downtown Cleveland and controls all estates of decedent’s living in Cuyahoga County at their time of death.  The Cuyahoga County Courthouse is located at 1 W Lakeside Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113 and the Court’s website is here.

Summit County Probate Court

The Summit County Probate Court is located in downtown Akron and controls all estates of decedent’s living in Summit County at their time of death.  The Summit County Courthouse is located at 209 S High St, Akron, OH 44308. Here is the Summit County Probate Court website.

Lorain County Probate Court

The Lorain County Probate Court is located in downtown Lorain and controls all estates of decedent’s living in Lorain County at their time of death. The Lorain County Courthouse is located at 225 Court St, Elyria, OH 44035. Here is the Lorain County Probate Court website.

Medina County Probate Court

The Medina County Probate Court is located in downtown Medina and controls all estates of decedent’s living in Medina County at their time of death. The Medina County Courthouse is located at 93 Public Square #104, Medina, OH 44256. Here is the Medina County Probate Court website.

Vocabulary and Terminology Unique to Probate Estates

The following terms are commonly used in relation to the probate estate process:

Executor

A person named in a Decedent’s Will to carry out the terms of the Will and handle the Probate Estate.

Administrator

A person appointed to handle a Decedent’s probate estate that was not named in the Will.

Testator

A person that signs a Will.  Note: A Will is technically called a Last Will and Testament, and the term Testator is the person executing their testament.

Testate

A person is considered to have died testate if the Decedent had a valid will signed before they died.

Intestate

A person is considered to have died intestate if they died without having a valid will.

Executrix

An executrix is the same as an executor, but is gender specific and related to the female gender.

Administratrix

An administratrix is the same as an administrator, but is gender specific and related to the female gender.

Commissioner

Similar to Executors and Administrators, but handles estates that are processed as a Release from Administration

Estate Tax

Estate tax is a tax applied against money/assets transferred upon someone’s death.  In Ohio, there is no state estate tax, but the federal estate tax still applies.

Will/Last Will and Testament

A Will, or more formally known as a Last Will and Testament is a document that is signed by the Testator and 2 witnesses and specifies who should receive the Testator’s assets, who should be appointed as the Executor and who should be the Guardian over any minor children.  This is an important piece of everyone’s estate plan.

Pour-Over Will

A Pour-Over Will is a specific type of Will that is used in conjunction with a Trust.  The Pour-Over Will provides that the assets of the Decedent be distributed to a Trust, rather than directly to a beneficiary of the estate.

Decedent

A term used to describe someone that has deceased.

Heir

A person legally entitled to inherit from a Decedent

Legatee

A person that is entitle to receive personal property from a Decedent’s estate according to their Will.

Devisee

A term used to identify someone that is entitle to receive real property pursuant to a Decedent’s Will.

Bequest

A gift made to someone through a Decedent’s Will.

Power of Appointment

A power granted to someone in a Decedent’s Will which allows that person the ability to appoint their allocated inheritance to someone else.  This power can be limited to certain people, or can be general and applicable to anyone.

Guardians

If a Decedent had minor children and they children had no living parents after the Decedent’s death, the Guardian is the person that takes custody and discretion over the minor child.

Creditor’s Claim

If the Decedent owed a debt to anyone, that person is considered a creditor of the Decedent’s estate and must present their claim against the Decedent’s estate within 6 months from the Decedent’s date of death.

Next of Kin

Put simply, next of kin is the closest living family of the Decedent.

Fiduciary

The Executor, Administrator or Commissioner that is appointed by the Probate Court to manage the Decedent’s Probate Estate is considered a fiduciary.

Bond

If there is no Will that waives the requirement of posting bond, the state requires fiduciaries to submit a bond to the Court guaranteeing they serve their duties as fiduciary without fail.

Different Types of Probate Estates

Ohio has different types of Probate Estates. The value of the estate generally determines the type of estate required.  The different types of probate estates include:

Full Administration

A Full Administration is the complete probate process.

Release from Administration

A standard Release from Administration is less complex than a Full Administration but more complex than a Summary Release from Administration.

Summary Release From Administration

A Summary Release from Administration is the shortest administration possible and has the lowest maximum estate value to qualify.

Probate Court Process Explained in Detail

The estate administration process differs for all estates based on the number of heirs, value and number of different assets, claims of creditors, and many other reasons.  Generally, each estate would proceed according to the following process.

Full Administration Process

The Full administration process requires the most amount of forms to be filed and prepared, and the most work to be done.  It usually includes the following steps:

Application for Authority to Administer the Estate

The Application for Authority to Administer the Estate is the form through which the Executor or the Administrator ask to be appointed as the manager of the estate.

Application to Probate the Will

Next of Kin, Children and Beneficiaries

Release from Administration Process

The Release from Administration process usually requires the following steps:

Application for Authority to Administer the Estate

The Application for Authority to Administer the Estate is the form through which the Executor or the Administrator ask to be appointed as the manager of the estate.

Avoiding Probate

Through proper estate planning, you can totally avoid probate court and all the stress and expenses that go with it.  By using a Revocable Living Trust, you can ensure that your assets transfer to your beneficiaries without having to go through Probate Court.  To learn more about Estate Planning and how to avoid probate, check out our main estate planning page.

Probate Litigation

We also represent heirs and beneficiaries in will contest cases in probate court. If you suspect someone may be guilty of elder abuse and manipulated a parent or someone that planned to bequest their property to you and coerced the decedent into changing their will or trust to cut your or your loved one out of the estate, then you need to contest the will and trust in probate court.  All probate attorneys at Valente Law are familiar with these cases and will fight for your right to receive your inheritance for you in a will contest case in probate court.

Probate Court Forms

The Probate Courts in Ohio use standardized forms prescribed the the Ohio Supreme Court.  They can be found here.  Each County may have additional forms they use that are unique to their specific Court.  Here are the standard probate forms:

1.0 Surviving Spouse, Children, Next of Kin, Legatees and Devisees; 2.0 Application to Probate Will; 2.1 Waiver of Notice of Probate of Will; 2.2 Notice of Probate of Will; 2.3 Entry Admitting Will to Probate; 2.4 Certificate of Service of Notice of Probate of Will; 3.0 Appointment of Appraiser; 4.0 Application for Authority to Administer Estate; 4.1 Supplemental Application for Ancillary Administration; 4.2 Fiduciary’s Bond; 4.3 Waiver of Right to Administer; 4.4 Notice and Citation of Hearing on Appointment of Fiduciary; 4.5 Entry Appointing Fiduciary; Letter of Authority; 5.0 Application to Relieve Estate from Administration; 5.1 Assets and Liabilities of Estate to be Relieved from Administration; 5.2 Waiver of Notice of Application to Relieve Estate from Administration; 5.3 Notice of Application to Relieve Estate from Administration; 5.4 Publication of Notice; 5.5 Publication of Notice Proof of Publication; 5.6 Entry Relieving Estate from Administration; 5.10 Summary Release From Administration; 5.11 Entry Granting Summary Release From Administration; 6.0 Inventory and Appraisal; 6.1 Schedule of Assets; 6.2 Waiver of Notice of Hearing on Inventory; 6.3 Notice of Hearing on Inventory; 7.0 Certification of Notice to Administrator of Medicaid Estate Recovery Program; 7.0(A) Notice to Administrator of Medicaid Estate Recovery; 7.1 Application for Family Allowance; 7.2 Application for Apportionment of Family Allowance; 8.0 Citation to Surviving Spouse to Exercise Elective Rights; 8.1 Election of Surviving Spouse to Take Under Will; 8.2 Election of Surviving Spouse to Take Against Will; 8.3 Summary of General Rights of Surviving Spouse; 8.4 Certificate of Service and Notice of Citation to Surviving Spouse to Exercise Elective Rights; 8.5 Return for Certificate of Service of Citation to Surviving Spouse to Exercise Elective Rights; 8.6 Waiver of Service to Surviving Spouse of the Citation to Elect; 9.0 Application to Sell Personal Property; 9.1 Entry Authorizing Sale of Personal Property; 9.2 Notice of Sale of Personal Property; 10.0 Application to Distribute in Kind; 10.1 Entry Approving Distribution in Kind; 10.2 Notice of Hearing on Application to Distribute in Kind; 11.0 Consent to Power to Sell Real Estate; 12.0 Application for Certificate of Transfer; 12.1 Certificate of Transfer; 13.0 Fiduciary’s Account; 13.1 Receipts and Disbursements; 13.2 Assets Remaining in Fiduciary’s Hands; 13.3 Entry Approving and Settling Account; 13.4 Waiver of Partial Account; 13.5 Notice of Hearing on Account; 13.6 Certificate of Termination; 13.7 Waiver of Notice of Hearing on Account; 13.8 Application to Extend Administration; 13.9 Certificate of Service of Account to Heirs or Beneficiaries; 13.10 Notice to Extend Administration

Probate Court Costs

The Probate Court is an expensive process, there is no denying it.  We do everything in our power to limit and reduce the costs of probate, but most estates will end up paying the following costs:

Court Costs

Every Court charges a standard fee for opening an estate.  These fees usually are about $200 to $250.

Fiduciary Fees

Every person serving as a fiduciary of an estate, including all executors, administrators, commissioners and others, are entitle to a reasonable fee for their services.  These fees start at 4% of the first $100,000 and then 3% of the next $300,000, and then 2% of the remaining balance.  There are specific percentages for selling real property and the law allows for additional fees for extraordinary service.  The fee structure is set by the commission statute.

Attorney Fees

Every attorney representing a fiduciary of an estate is entitled to a fee for their services.  Attorney’s fees are not set by law like fiduciary fees are, but are usually somewhat similar in total cost.  Attorney’s fees are permitted by statute as well.  Most attorneys charge clients for probate services in 1 of 3 ways.  A firm may bill hourly, by applying their hourly rate to the total number of hours worked on the probate estate.  Other firms may offer flat fees, where they promise a certain price for the entire estate process, regardless of the actual time worked.  The last common fee structure is charging a percentage of the total value of the estate.  Probate fees can get expensive and we do everything in our power to keep our fees as low as possible.

Taxes

The fiduciary of the estate should be aware of any tax liability of the Decedent, including personal income taxes that should be paid on the Decedent’s final 1040, estate income taxes that should be paid on a 1041, and estate taxes. Information can be found on the IRS website and Ohio Department of Tax Website.

Most Commonly Asked Probate Estate Questions

These are the most common questions we get from clients asking about the probate court process and our answers.

What do I do When My Loved One Passes?

First, take a moment to be with your friend and family and deal with the emotional loss.  The very next thing you should do is call us.  There are a number of steps we will take to help you understand your role in relation to your loved one’s estate and help you throughout the entire process.  By leaving the technical, legal work to us, you can focus on the more important things like being with your family and dealing with any emotions and interpersonal issues.

What do I do when My Spouse Dies?

First, take the time to deal with the emotional effect of their loss.  When you are ready, the first thing you should do in order to get their estate in order is to call us so we can help make this complicated time easier.  We will need to do the following main things.

To start, we need to make sure all of their assets are secured and begin compiling an inventory of all assets and debts.  We need to review their Will and Trust and get a plan in place to make sure their wishes will be carried out.  Then we may have to open a probate estate, although there are certain strategies to avoid probate.  We will need to make sure all final taxes are paid, including all income taxes and estate taxes.  Next we will need to make distributions to beneficiaries and get any trust accounts set up.

What do I do when My Parent Dies?

The first step when anyone dies, including a parent, is to take the time necessary to be with your family.  When you are ready to start working on their estate, you should call us so we can walk you through the process.  The probate estate administration process in Cuyahoga County, Summit County, Medina County and neighboring courts is a very technical proceeding.  It will require us to do the following main tasks.

First, we will need to secure all of the assets and get a list of all assets and debts.  Then, we will need to review the Will and Trust and determine a course of action to get everything handled.  You will need to make sure all required debts are paid and all remaining assets get distributed to the appropriate beneficiaries.  As a probate law firm, we can help walk you through this process and make it as easy as possible to handle.

How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

The probate process generally takes about 6 months to a year.  But keep in mind all estates are different.  If there is a high number of assets or debts, it will add to the complexity and duration.  If anyone disputes the Will or makes any claims against the estate it can take much longer.  We have seen cases go on for years and years on end, and you need to be sure your probate lawyer can help navigate this complicated process.

How to Prepare for the First Meeting to Start the Probate Process?

To prepare for our first meeting, you should do the following things.  Bring all original estate planning documents, specifically including all Wills and Trusts.  Bring a list of all of the Decedent’s assets and debts.  Obtain a copy of the death certificate from the county and a copy of the funeral bill to shows that the funeral has been paid (the court requires proof that the funeral home is paid in full). If you can bring the last couple years tax returns, that would be helpful.

Is Probate Necessary?

Probate is necessary only in some estates.  If proper estate planning techniques were used, like using a revocable living trust, then a probate estate may not be necessary.  A probate estate will be required if the decedent owned any assets in the decedent’s name personally, and the assets are not subject to a transfer on death designation.  Basically, you need to open a probate estate if the Decedent owned an asset that you need to transfer out of the Decedent’s name and there is no other way to do it.  Assets that have a death beneficiary or are in a Trust, are not probate assets, so if all of the Decedent’s assets are in a trust or have death beneficiaries an estate won’t be required.  Aside from the assets, the only other reason to open an estate is if the decedent had minor children that require a guardian.

How do I Avoid Probate?

Probate avoidance is one of our main focus areas in our estate planning practice.  Probate court can be avoided if you transfer your assets into a trust or make them all transferable on death.  We use Revocable Living Trusts as an estate planning document to avoid probate.  Avoiding probate is simple and will save your estate a lot time, money and stress.

What is the difference between and Executor, Executrix, Administrator or Administratrix?

The “trix” is a fancy way to refer to the female gender serving the role.  An executrix has the same rights and responsibilities as an executor, and an administratrix has the same rights and responsibilities as an administrator.  Most people just use executor and administrator as a gender neutral term regardless if it is a man or a woman serving.  The difference between an administrator and an executor, is that an executor is named in a will to handle the estate, and an administrator is appointed to handle the estate, but not named in the will.

Is Probate Totally Public?

Unfortunately the probate process is usually completely public.  The American Courts favor an open system, and the same applies here.  Some of the probate forms are very personal in nature, explaining a persons net worth and financial obligations, details about families and interpersonal relationships with family members.

What if the Decedent Did Not Have a Will?

If the Decedent did not have a will, the default provisions in the Ohio Probate Code and the Statute of Descent and Distribution will control the estate.  The decedent’s assets will be distributed to his or her heirs as determined by Ohio law.  Ohio law will also determine who the administrator of the estate should be.

What is Transfer on Death?

Transfer on Death (TOD) is a way to transfer assets directly upon someone’s death to a beneficiary without needing to go to probate court.  A transfer on death designation can be made on most bank accounts, investment accounts, homes, cars and most other assets.  The beneficiary of a TOD asset does not have a vested interest in the asset until the decedent dies, and the decedent maintains exclusive use and ownership until death.

What is Joint with Rights of Survivorship?

Joint with Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS) is similar to Transfer on Death, except the beneficiary has a current, vested interest in the asset. JTWROS is a designation that can be applied to most bank and investment accounts, cars, homes and most other assets.  A JTWROS has 2 or more owners that each have a present interest in the property, and when they die, the surviving owner gets the decedent’s share automatically without probate court.

How do I get a Death Certificate?

You generally get the death certificate from the funeral home, but each county has an administrative office that is in charge of preparing and providing death certificates.  The county agency is usually referred to as the Vital Statistics Office.

What are the average total fees for probate estates?

We can’t provide an exact figure, but to the best of our experience and according to studies we have read, the average probate estate ends up costing about 5% of the total value of the estate.  Based on complexity, problems, or ease of administration, this amount can vary widely from estate to estate.

Probate Estate Lawyer and Probate Court Lawyer

Top notch probate attorneys in Cuyahoga County and Summit County can be hard to find and Valente Law will help make the probate court process stress free and successful.  An experience probate attorney can be the difference between a long, drawn out, costly probate administration and a quick, efficient and affordable probate administration. With many probate clients in Cleveland, Akron, Medina and surrounding areas, Valente Law has the experience and skill you need. When a loved one dies, during their probate administration, you need a probate attorney and probate law firm that you can trust to respect the decedent’s wishes and take care of the beneficiaries, and Valente Law provides effective, efficient and affordable probate representation.

 


separator