How to Probate a Will in Ohio

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Sorting through a loved one's affairs after death can be heartbreaking, but Ohio state and local agencies do at least define laws intended to make it easier to deal with the deceased's affairs.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Filing a will in Ohio requires that Ohio Supreme Court probate forms and local county forms, like the Cuyahoga County probate court forms, are followed so that all of the deceased person's creditors and heirs are provided notice of the assets of the estate and how they will be distributed.

What is Probate?

When someone dies, that person's property and valuables (sometimes called "assets") can be transferred in a variety of ways. One common way is by instruction from the person who died (called the "decedent") to family and friends (called "heirs"). Instructions are often recorded in a will, but can also be found in trust agreements, bank account paperwork and life insurance and retirement benefits forms. To follow the instructions of the decedent in the will, all of the decedent's assets must be found and itemized. Their bills and accounts payable are also located. This process is often referred to by Ohio Probate law as "estate administration."

Some assets of the decedent can be transferred to heirs only by probate court proceedings. This process is called probating a will. Not all assets of the decedent have to be presented to probate court. Under Ohio probate law, property that has specific instructions, such as life insurance and retirement benefits as well as certain bank accounts, are considered non-probate assets.

How Do You Start a Probate Proceeding?

Under Ohio Probate law, not all estates must go to probate. Estates that are valued at less than $100,000 in which the spouse of the decedent is the only heir, the law does not require the spouse to probate the will.

For other estates, the decedent's estate and instructions for how to transfer it must be reviewed by the probate court. This is often called filing a will in Ohio. To properly follow the process for filing a will in Ohio, executor (the person that the decedent asked to carry out the instructions in the will) must first request authority from the court.

To follow the process for filing a will in Ohio, the executor has to follow certain steps required by Ohio probate law. Those steps are: to determine the names, ages and degree of relationship of heirs; to locate and protect the property of the decedent; to file an inventory of all the assets of the decedent; to investigate all the claims against the decedent's estate; to file any outstanding tax returns and pay all income tax; to distribute the estate according to Ohio probate law using all relevant Ohio Supreme Court probate forms; and to ensure that notice of probate of a will has been been done properly.

Probate Specifics: Costs, Length of Time, Deadlines

There is no time limit for filing a will in Ohio under Ohio probate law. But there are requirements to pay bills, such as mortgages and taxes, on time. Additionally, there are costs associated with filing a will in Ohio. These costs include court costs that may be charged with each document or request for court approval, as well as a deposit with the court for opening the estate, and fees for accountants and attorneys needed for preparing reports and tax returns.

The process for probating a will in Ohio involves a period of time when creditors may request payment from the decedent's estate. That time under Ohio Probate law is six months. Heirs usually cannot receive property from the probate assets (like a house) but may receive other non-probate asset distribution (like life insurance, retirement benefits or pensions).

If the estate does not need to file a federal tax return, after that six-month window has passed, the executor may pay all the bills and present its audit of the estate (sometimes called an accounting) to the court for approval. Once approved, the heirs can then receive their distributions. If the estate has to file a tax return, the distribution of the estate may take up to an additional year from the six-month waiting period. Sometimes heirs disagree on the intent of the decedent's written will, and protest the executor's plan for distribution. This is called "will contest" and may delay the distribution.



About the Author

Maggie has a J.D. from Emory Law School, with honors, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal. She is the author of various articles on regulation, policy, and compliance. She speaks in classrooms on law and health policy and works on compliance in health care and real estate.

Photo Credits

  • Hand and document at the meeting image by Dmitry Goygel-Sokol from