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The probate process and how it may be avoided

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2019 | Probate, Trust & Estate Administration

Some heirs in Ohio aren’t thrilled about the probate process that typically occurs when a loved one passes away. This is partly because of a lingering misconception that probate can be a long, drawn-out ordeal. However, the experience with probate court doesn’t have to be all that time-consuming if family members are prepared. It’s also possible for surviving heirs to skip this process altogether.

Regardless of what steps are taken with trust and probate administration, all estates normally go to probate so asset distribution decisions can be made. If there’s a will, the designated executor will handle distribution of assets; otherwise, the court will select an administrator to do so. As for avoiding probate, one option is for the estate owner to make their preferred heirs co-owners of various assets. The potential downside with this arrangement is that one heir could legally claim all assets.

Transfer-on-death provisions can also be added to various accounts and deeds to avoid probate; although, probate may still be necessary if certain assets are transferred to a minor. It’s also possible for designated heirs to die out of order and cause complications with this setup. This is why a more commonly recommended probate avoidance step is a revocable trust. Upon death, assets in the trust would be transferred to the designated heirs without the need for probate. Even if probate is avoided, there’s always the potential for family squabbles that end up resulting in court battles, especially if a will is contested.

One potential way to minimize the risk of legal battles with wills and other aspects of the trust and probate administration process is to seek input from an attorney. For instance, a no-contest clause can be added to a will that states anyone challenging it loses their bequest. An alternative option is a mediation clause. A lawyer may also recommend that a client add proactive communication to their estate documents, such as side letters, to explain asset distribution and division decisions.


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