Probate And Estate Administration

You've spent your whole life working for everything you have. What happens to your assets when you die? The answer depends almost entirely on what type of planning you do, but falls into two separate categories: Assets that have to be transferred through the probate court in an estate (called "probate assets") or assets that don't require court involvement (called "nonprobate assets"). Probate assets often require more time and expense to transfer, while nonprobate assets generally transfer quickly, with limited expense. As a general rule, the more court involvement that is required, the more time and expense are associated with distributing your assets.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process by which the probate court deems a deceased person's last will and testament to be valid and appoints an executor to distribute that person's property as directed by the will. Even if someone dies without a last will and testament, the probate court uses Ohio law to determine who receives that person's property and appoints an administrator to make distribution.

The executor or administrator must:

  • Assemble the assets of a deceased person
  • Pay bills, including funeral expenses, debts and taxes
  • Collect any outstanding debts
  • Distribute remaining assets

Probate Vs. Estate Planning

Typically, unless there is reason to have a probate court oversee the administration of your probate estate, good estate planning can make virtually every asset into a nonprobate asset by designating someone to receive it when you die. Planning makes all the difference.

At Hurley Gunsher, Ltd., our estate planning and probate practice ensures that you can properly designate who should receive your assets after you die and, when the time comes to distribute them, that the process moves quickly, efficiently and outside of court, if possible. Balancing a powerful understanding of probate law and sensitivity to you or your family's needs at a difficult time is what Hurley Gunsher does best. Should issues arise with a will or trust and probate litigation is required, we have you covered there too.

Estate Planning

Estate planning does more than merely provide to the transfer of your property after you die. Much of estate planning involves the thoughtful transfer of assets during your life, as well as preparing for the possibility of illness or disability and who would make financial and medical decisions for you if you couldn't. To meet that goal, estate planning often uses one or more of the following:

  • Last will and testament: This document not only indicates who should receive your probate assets and who has the power to distribute them, but it also may nominate a guardian for your minor children and set up a trust for them.
  • Power of attorney: Whether for financial or health care matters, a power of attorney gives authority to someone to act on your behalf. Powers of attorney may avoid the need for a guardianship if you become unable to make decisions on your own.
  • Living will: Sometimes called an "advanced directive," this document gives instructions on your end-of-life care to doctors who may be caring for you in a terminal condition or permanently unconscious state.
  • Transfer on death designation: A form of nonprobate transfer that can transfer real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, business interests, and other assets without the need for probate court involvement.
  • Revocable and irrevocable trusts: This legal method of owning and transferring property outside of probate can be tailored to your particular needs and circumstances and may provide certain continued control over your assets, which may not be available in a last will and testament. Certain types of trusts (called "special needs trusts") can be helpful to protect the interests (and benefits) received by special needs individuals.

Contact Us To Discuss Your Probate and Estate Planning Concerns

Call our offices in Middletown or Fairfield at 513-318-9893 to make an appointment with one of our probate and estate planning lawyers. All initial consultations over the phone are free. We can also be reached through the Contact page of this website.