Probate describes the legal proceedings conducted when a person dies and leaves a will behind. Probating a will in Ohio involves a designated representative, usually the executor, legally distributing the assets of the estate and settling the deceased person's financial affairs.The Ohio Probate Court System has specific rules and procedures for the probate of a will, and all court actions relevant to the estate must be completed for the will to be probated.
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Locate the last will and testament of the deceased person. The will needs to be filed in the Ohio probate court that has jurisdiction over the area where the deceased person lived. Check areas in the deceased person's home where important papers were stored. Contact the office of the appropriate probate court if you cannot find the will; the person may have filed the will prior to death. Give the clerk the person's full name and ask if a filed will exists.
Obtain the death certificate for the deceased person. Contact the department of vital records or statistics if you need a certified copy. Ask for the forms needed to request a death certificate. Fill out the forms in full and submit.
Visit the office of the probate court once you have located the will and have the death certificate. Ask the court clerk for the Application to Probate Will and the Waiver of Notice of Probate forms. Ask for court guidelines and instructions for the forms, if available, and the filing fee schedule. Request the Notice of Probate of Will and Certificate of Notice of Probate of Will forms if you are unsure you will be able to get signatures from all of the heirs.
Complete the Application for Probate. The exact form varies by locale, but you generally need the following information: name, birth date and residence of the deceased person; date and place of death; name and residence of the executor named in the will; and the full names and current residences of all legal heirs.
Fill out the Waiver of Notice of Probate forms; you need one from each heir. Obtain signed waivers from all heirs if possible. The waivers indicate the heirs are not contesting the executor appointment or probate proceedings.
Complete the Notice of Probate form for each heir you could not get a signed waiver from. Serve the notice on each heir at the address you listed on the Application for Probate. The court may accept certified mail receipts or require you use personal service—when a company you hire has a process server deliver the notice to the heir personally. Fill out the Certificate of Service for all the heirs you served. Retain proof of service, such as the mail receipt or an affidavit from the process server.
Check the filing fee schedule for your Ohio probate court. Locate "probate application" on the form and note the fee required. Check the schedule for any filing fees for other documents you are filing, such as waivers. Get a check or money order payable as directed on the fee schedule in the amount you noted. Leave the payable section blank if you are unsure.
Return to the probate court office. File the probate petition with the will -- if the will was not already filed -- your waivers, any Notice of Probate and Certificate of Service forms you have, and proofs of service. Ask whom to make the payment payable to if you left that area blank.
Attend the scheduled probate hearing. The last will and testament may be probated and an executor legally appointed unless a court requirement was not met, an unexpected issue has arisen or other problems occur with the estate.
Tips & Warnings
- Contact an attorney if you are unsure about any steps in probating the will. Visit the official website of the Ohio Bar Association to locate a probate attorney in your area.
- Do not omit heirs from your petition; the probate proceedings will be severely impacted as a result.
References & Resources
- The Cleveland Law Library Association: Frequently Asked Questions: Probate Court Functions and Related Statutes
- Probate Court of Cuyahoga County, Ohio: Local Rules of the Court
- Ohio State Bar Association: LawFacts Pamphlets: Probate
- Hamilton County Probate Court: Standard Probate Forms: Waiver of Notice to Probate Will
- Hamilton County Probate Court: Standard Probate Forms: Application to Probate Will
- Hamilton County Probate Court: Standard Probate Forms: Notice of Probate of Will