At Flynn, Py & Kruse, we are aware of the many misconceptions about wills and probate that could confuse people in Ohio. In particular, you may have heard that it is important to "avoid probate." This advice is relevant in some circumstances, but the probate process does not always create cause for concern.
According to the Ohio State Bar Association, the primary goal of the probate court is to ensure that your debts and all taxes are paid, and your assets are distributed to your heirs and/or beneficiaries. How this happens depends on whether or not you have a will. With or without a will, though, these things must still occur.
When you create a will, you choose an executor to take care of the probate process for you. If you do not name someone to take this responsibility, the court appoints an administrator. The probate court oversees the process, regardless of who is fulfilling the duties. Probate typically takes several months, although it may not take that long before heirs receive their inheritances. Skipping the probate process could ensure that your loved ones benefit from your assets much sooner.
There are assets that do not go through probate. For example, if you have a joint account, the asset does not go through probate before becoming the property of the other person because it already belongs to him or her. When you have already named beneficiaries for your retirement accounts and life insurance policies, those are transferred directly to those people. Assets in a trust also do not go through probate, and are administered by a trustee rather than the executor or administrator. If you have significant assets, a trust may be especially beneficial to your heirs.
Avoiding probate does not necessarily mean you have avoided taxes. Federal estate taxes may affect both probate and nonprobate properties. More information about probate and estate administration is available on our webpage.