You may have heard that after you pass away, all or some of your estate must be processed by an Ohio probate court. This is also called passing the estate through probate. It is a legal process by which a judge accepts or rejects your will as valid or invalid, and oversees the executor’s work of distributing your assets as laid out in your will.
To do estate planning properly, you should clear up some common misconceptions about how probate law works in Ohio. Here are three myths about probate, and the truth.
1. When somebody dies without a will, the government takes their property
Everyone should have a will in place, but not because the state of Ohio will seize your assets if you die intestate (which means without a valid will). Instead, the state’s intestacy law will determine who inherits your property. This usually results in your surviving spouse and/or children inheriting, if you have any. But the intestacy law is quite thorough about finding a relative to pass down your assets to, such as a third cousin, if you die without any living close family members and no will. Only if you die with no family members at all will the government claim your property.
2. Probate fees and taxes will take a huge bite out of my estate
For most people’s estates, probate is not an expensive process. The costs go up when the estate is large and complex, or when a dispute over the terms of a will or trust turns into litigation. Also, the federal estate tax, or “death tax,” exempts all estates valued below $11.58 million. The vast majority of estates in Ohio in estates are never taxed.
3. A revocable trust is always a cheaper alternative to a will and probate
One of the benefits of a revocable trust, also known as a living trust, is that they do not pass through probate. The property contained in the trust will be administered and distributed according to the trust’s terms. While a revocable trust does avoid probate court costs, the trust itself can be expensive. Whether it is worth it for your heirs or not is something you should discuss with your estate planning attorney.
In helping you achieve your estate planning goals, your lawyer will help you predict how probate will affect your assets and how to minimize costs and delays.