When someone passes away, their affairs must be cared for. Estate administration is the legal process of settling the decedent’s unfinished business. It is also referred to as probate. In Ohio, the probate court in the county in which the decedent was a resident at the time of their death has jurisdiction over their estate matters. Ohio Rev. Code § 2113.01. For example, if the decedent was a legal resident of Cleveland, the probate court in Cuyahoga County would be the appropriate court to initiate the probate proceeding.
The two main purposes of the probate process are to make sure that a decedent’s property is legally transferred to the appropriate people or entities and to make sure that the decedent’s debts are paid. However, the process can be complicated and involve several steps.
While the probate court Ohio has jurisdiction over the estate administration process, the personal representative is responsible for caring for the day-to-day activities of estate administration. If the decedent left a will, the personal representative is typically the personal the decedent nominated in the will and as commonly called the executor. Otherwise, the person is typically the spouse, adult child, or other family member and is commonly called the administrator. Before the personal representative can move forward with managing the decedent’s estate, they must first petition the probate and the court must approve their petition.
Estate Administration Process
- Filing paperwork to open the estate. An Form 2.0- Application to Probate Will and the Form 4.0- Application for Authority to Administer Estate are examples of forms that would need to be filed to initiate the probate process. Ohio Rev Code § 2113.07. Information that the forms required will include a list of next of kin of the decedent as well as beneficiaries under the will, if any. If there is a will, the original must be presented along with the Application to Probate Will.
- Appointment of an personal representative. If the court approves the application, it will admit the will to probate. The court will also appoint the personal representative and issue them Letters of Authority. With the letters, the personal representative will have the legal power to manage the decedent’s estate and eventually distribute its assets.
- Manage the estate. Once the personal representative is duly appointed, they must perform the tasks necessary to manage the estate. The tasks include:
- Caring for and safeguarding the decedent’s property
- Notifying creditors and paying valid debts, expenses, and taxes
- Distributing estate assets according to the decedent’s will or Ohio’s law of intestate succession.
In Ohio, the entire administration process typically takes about 6-12 months. However, every estate is unique and a variety of factors can impact the timeframe. A small estate with few assets and no creditor issues can be settled within about 6 months. A large, complicate estate can take more than a year to settle. If there are probate disputes such as will contest or complicated tax litigation, the timeframe can extend for a year or multiple years.
Compensation for the Personal Representative
Personal representatives are entitled to receive payment for their work. They are paid from estate assets and their pay is considered an expense of administration. The amount of pay is either based on the what the will directs or what the Ohio statute directs.
The statutory compensation is based on the value of the assets in the decedent’s probate estate as follows:
- For the first $100,000 of probate assets: 4%
- For the next $300,000 of probate assets: 3%
- For assets above $400,000: 2%
Ohio Rev Code § 2113.35
Note that if the court determines that the personal representative did a poor job, it can decide that the person representative should receive a smaller fee than the statutory requirement or no fee at all. Ohio Rev Code § 2113.35(D)