What Is the Ohio Code Mandating Probating of Wills?

by Heather Frances J.D. Google

Ohio’s probate process is mainly governed by Chapter 2113 of Ohio Revised Code, with other pertinent sections elsewhere in Title 21 of the code. Probate can be difficult for the decedent’s family and beneficiaries, but it is generally required even if the decedent did not have a will. However, Ohio law exempts estates of certain value from probate.

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Probate is the process whereby a decedent’s assets are gathered, final debts are paid and remaining assets are distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. Courts appoint a representative or executor to administer the estate, and the court supervises that person’s actions during administration. Some estates don’t have to be probated because Ohio has decided those estates don’t need the court supervision that is often necessary for large estates whose administration could be confusing without court help.

Estates Less Than $35,000

Estates that are valued at $35,000 or less can be released from administration, which means they do not have to be fully probated. Instead, a person who has an interest in the estate can apply to the court for the estate to be released. After the applicant gives notice to certain family members and publishes a notice in the newspaper, the court can release the estate from probate and order that the decedent’s property be distributed to those who should inherit it.

Estates Less Than $150,000

Some estates valued at $150,000 or less also may be released from probate administration if the decedent left a will leaving everything to his surviving spouse. If the decedent died without a will but his surviving spouse qualifies under Ohio laws to receive all of his property, the estate may also be released from probate. The same procedures apply to getting these estates released as those that apply to estates less than $35,000.

Summary Release

A summary release from probate may be granted to the person who pays the decedent’s funeral expenses if the estate is less than $5,000 or the amount of the decedent’s funeral expenses, whichever is less, as long as that person is not the decedent’s surviving spouse. A summary release to the decedent’s surviving spouse is possible if the surviving spouse and children receive an allowance from the estate and if the estate meets certain valuation criteria. If the decedent’s funeral expenses were prepaid, the estate’s value must be less than the amount of the allowance plus the amount of the decedent’s funeral expenses. If the decedent’s funeral expenses were not prepaid, the surviving spouse must pay those expenses and the estate’s value must be less than the amount of those expenses plus the allowance to the surviving family.