The death of a spouse or parent can create financial hardships for close family members who were dependent on the deceased person for support. This is complicated by the fact that it can take several months to settle an estate in Ohio. For this reason, the state allows spouses and children to receive a support allowance from an estate immediately after death, as well as additional amounts upon court approval.
Overview of Probate
Probate is the process by which the property of a deceased person is collected and distributed according to a will, or by state law if there is no valid will. In Ohio, an executor is appointed to inventory the assets, contact the beneficiaries, and make sure debts and taxes are paid before the property is distributed. Creditors have six months to file a claim against the estate, which means that the probate process will take at least that long to complete, regardless of the size of the estate. However, large estates also require the filing of federal and state tax returns which can cause the process to take longer than a year.
Because of the length of time it takes to settle an estate in Ohio, state law provides an immediate distribution of a $40,000 allowance from the estate to support any minor children and surviving spouse. If there are no children, or they are also the children of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse receives the entire allowance. If there is no surviving spouse, the children receive the entire allowance, divided by the court based on need. If the children are not the children of the surviving spouse, the allowance will also be divided among the children and surviving spouse based on need.
In order for the executor to distribute additional assets, court approval is required. A judge may be persuaded to order an early distribution in cases where assets will lose value during the process, like automobiles. In addition, a judge may consider an early award if the estate is very large and probate is expected to take a considerable amount of time.
In evaluating whether to pursue an early distribution, the executor must make sure debts or taxes of the estate are not so large that an early distribution would leave insufficient assets to pay creditors. Ohio law requires an executor to inform beneficiaries they may have to return property received early, if necessary to satisfy any unexpected claims against the estate. If the returned property is insufficient to satisfy the claims, the executor may be held personally liable for the difference.