Estate administration, commonly called "probate," is the court supervised process of transferring property owned by a deceased person to his/her heirs or beneficiaries. It is the process of identifying the decedent's property, making an inventory, appraising the value of the assets, listing debts, and paying creditors (if any), then distributing the balance of assets to the heirs or beneficiaries of the deceased person..
Property may be transferred outside of probate court by the legal relationship established in the document of ownership such as a deed, title, financial account, or other binding, legal document. Such property may be transferred outside of the estate administration process.
The fiduciary is the person who represents the deceased person in administering the estate. He or she may be a family member, a person named in a Last Will and Testament, or another interested person. The Court appoints the fiduciary.
Estates of persons who die having prepared a valid Last Will and Testament before their death are referred to as "testate" estates. The distribution of the assets is controlled by the language of the Last Will and Testament — subject to some legal exceptions.
Estates of persons who die without a valid Last Will and Testament are referred to as "intestate" estates, and the distribution of their assets is determined by a law called the Statute of Descent and Distribution, found in Ohio Revised Code §2105.06.
An executor is the fiduciary of a testate estate. An administrator is a fiduciary in an intestate estate.
Fiduciaries are usually bonded. The bond is a specialized type of insurance policy which protects the heirs from any loss of estate assets by the fiduciary. The bond is a legal requirement intended to protect the heirs and beneficiaries of the deceased person's estate. In many instances, however, the terms of the Last Will and Testament waive the obligation of the executor to obtain a bond.
Estate taxes and/or a tax return may be required, depending on the value of the decedent's estate and other circumstances. The Ohio Estate Tax was repealed on January 1, 2013. However, a person who passed away prior to that date may be subject to the Ohio Estate Tax. You may contact the Ohio Department of Taxation or a tax professional to determine if an estate is subject to Ohio Estate Tax. Some estates must file federal estate tax returns. Information on Federal Estate and Gift Tax and tax forms can be found on the web site for the Internal Revenue Service.
The probate court's role in a wrongful death situation is at the beginning and end of the process.
If a person dies as a result of the negligent conduct or wrongful acts of another, the responsible person can be sued in court for damages.
An estate must be opened for the deceased person. Then, a court appointed person, known as the Executor or Administrator of the estate, is legally authorized to commence a legal action against the wrongdoer for damages for the loss caused by the victim's death. This lawsuit would go forward in the general division of the Court of Common Pleas.
Once the legal action commenced by the executor or administrator in the general division has been determined, any money damages awarded to the family of the deceased person must be disbursed to the family members. This disbursement must be approved by the probate court via a wrongful death action.