How to avoid probate in Columbus, OH

by Jul 18, 2022

Probate, or the process of distributing a loved one’s assets, is the last thing anyone wants to think about after a loved one passes away in Columbus. Even though probate isn’t always complicated, it’s important to understand the process, particularly if you want to spare your heirs from it.

Understanding Probate Law in Columbus, OH

Ohio probate is a court-supervised legal process. Its purpose is to make sure the deceased person’s debts and taxes get paid and that their assets go to the rightful inheritors.

Generally, only assets in the deceased person’s name alone go through probate. Everything else can probably be transferred to the new owner without probate court approval.

There’s a simpler and less expensive probate process for either situation:

    • If the surviving spouse inherits all probate property (under the deceased spouse’s will or by state law if there is no will) and the value of the estate does not exceed $100,000; or
    • If the estate is worth less than $35,000.

The simplified process should take two to four months. After that, the Columbus probate court will distribute the estate assets to the heirs.

Why Avoid Probate

Many people want to avoid probate in Columbus, even though it’s usually straightforward. There are a few common complaints:

    • A probate court can take years to resolve an estate in Columbus, especially if it’s complicated or involves a contested will.
    • Typically, probate costs include executor fees, attorney fees, and other administrative fees, like appraiser fees. In some cases, they can add up fast. If the process drags on, the costs go up.
    • Since it’s a state legal proceeding, what happens in probate court doesn’t stay there. Everything goes into the public record.

How to Avoid Probate in Columbus

You can avoid probate no matter why you want to. Here are some options:

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    Have a small estate

    Ohio probate law provides that no probate is needed if the Columbus estate is worth less than $5,000 or the funeral expenses. Anyone (except the surviving spouse) who has paid or is obligated to pay those expenses can ask the court for a summary release from administration. The surviving spouse can also ask for summary release from administration if the surviving spouse inherits everything and is entitled to a family support allowance, if all the deceased spouse’s assets are less than $45,000, and if the surviving spouse is obligated to pay the funeral costs.

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    Sell and give away your Columbus property while you’re alive

    If you reduce the value of your estate while you’re alive, you might be able to get it into a simplified or exempt probate position. Don’t leave your property to family and friends after you die. Give it to them now. You can also sell properties with high value, like your home. Not only can this reduce how much of your estate goes through probate, it might also help reduce or even eliminate future federal and state estate taxes.
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    Make a living trust

    When it comes to avoiding probate, trusts are appealing since Columbus property held in trust doesn’t go to your heirs. It’s the trustee, not you, who controls the trust property, and they’re obligated to distribute it according to the terms of the trust.
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    Make accounts payable on death

    Bank accounts and other accounts that are payable on death in Columbus go straight to your beneficiary without going through probate. Ohio also allows such transfers of real estate.
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    Own property jointly

    By making your spouse or someone else a joint owner in Columbus, you can avoid probate. Such assets can be held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, tenancy by the entirety, and community property with right of survivorship.

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