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Gregory, L. Williams, Jr., Esq., Partner. Jan. 24, 2022

In 2020, judges in Ohio in the Probate Division oversaw a total of 52,387 cases involving “decedents’ estates,” or in other words, persons who died with a will or without a will, which is called dying intestate.

Probate is the legal process for settling the estates of those who die. Probate can be a confusing concept for those embarking on estate planning and certainly for those who’ve lost a loved one and now must face the prospect of nine months or more of court proceedings before their loved one’s assets can be distributed to heirs.

An exception to probate exists for those who place their estates in a living trust before they die, in which case courtroom proceedings can be avoided.

If you’re just starting out on estate planning or even if you already have a plan in place, contact me. Each person’s situation is unique. I will meet with you, discuss your needs and desires for the future, and help you craft a solid estate plan to care for your loved ones. If you already have a will or trust established, I can review that and make sure everything is in order and it will accomplish all of your goals for you and your loved ones.

I proudly serve clients in and around Columbus, Ohio, and throughout Central Ohio. 

Glossary of Probate Terms

Some of you may already be facing the prospect of probate proceedings, and others may simply want to learn what the process is all about, so here is a glossary of terms associated with probate to give you a better understanding.

  • Last Will and Testament: This is the basic estate planning document in which you designate who gets which of your assets when you’re gone. A living trust can accomplish the same distribution of assets, but if you have minor children, you will still need a will to name a guardian for your children. That cannot be accomplished in a trust.

  • Beneficiary: A beneficiary is someone named in your will who will receive assets you designate for them.

  • Testate: Testate refers to a person who dies with a will in place.

  • Intestate: This is the legal term for someone who dies without an estate planning instrument in place like a will or trust.

  • Personal Representative: In your will, you should name someone to be your personal representative – usually a family member, trusted friend, or close associate – to present your will to the probate court and then oversee its fulfillment.

  • Executor: After your personal representative presents your will to the probate court, he or she then becomes known as the executor. The executor must survey all assets of your estate, pay all debts, honor all taxes, and when that is done, distribute assets to your named beneficiaries, all under court supervision.

  • Administrator: If you die intestate, fail to name a personal representative in your will, or the personal representative can’t or is unwilling to perform their duties, the court will name an administrator for your estate. An administrator will function just like a personal representative/executor.

  • Intestate Succession: If you die without a will, the probate court will decide upon the distribution of your assets according to state laws concerning what is called intestate succession.

  • Guardianship: If you leave behind minor children without naming a guardian to care for them, the court will place the children in a guardianship and name a guardian to care for them. Even if you have a living trust in place, you must use a will to name a guardian to prevent the court from appointing one.

Let The Me Help

You’re never too young or too old to establish an estate plan, but you can be too late. If you haven’t started on your estate plan yet, now is a perfect time. The pandemic has shown us all how unpredictable life can be, so it’s best to prepare for the future of you and your loved ones while you can.

The best option to avoid inflicting probate on your heirs and beneficiaries is, as briefly mentioned earlier, to set up a living trust. It will still take time to sort everything out, but the trustee named in the trust won’t have to run everything by a probate judge.

If you’re in or around Columbus, or anywhere in Central Ohio, contact me, and let’s get started on your estate plan. If you already have one, it’s important to review it with an experienced estate planning attorney from time to time. I can assist with that as well.

Establish a comprehensive estate plan, and give yourself and your loved ones peace of mind knowing that you’ve prepared for all eventualities.