Some states don’t have specific rules regarding an executor’s compensation, but Ohio does. It offers an exact formula in which the executor receives a percentage based on the value of the estate’s assets. The court can reduce or deny an executor’s fee if they don't carry out their duties.
Conversely, if an executor feels they’ve gone over and above in managing a decedent’s estate, they can ask for – and will often receive – additional money.
The decedent usually names the executor in their will, but if they don't or there is no valid will, the court appoints an administrator. Both entities have the same duties and receive the same amount of compensation.
What Is a Probate Court?
In Ohio, as in other states, probate is the court-supervised legal process in which a person’s assets are distributed after they die, whether or not they left a valid will. If they died with a will, their property is distributed according to that document. If they died without one, it is distributed according to Ohio intestate law.
Probate isn't required under Ohio law if the:
- Estate’s value is $35,000 or less.
- Decedent’s estate is worth less than $5,000, or an individual paid up to $5,000 for the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses and asks the court to be reimbursed.
- Estate’s value is $100,000 or less, and the decedent’s spouse inherits everything.
Who Can Be an Executor in Ohio?
An individual or organization is typically named as executor of a will. If there is no will, or the will doesn’t specify a party, the probate court appoints an administrator. Both executors and administrators have the same estate administration duties.
To be an executor of estate in Ohio, an individual must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind, meaning a court has not judged them incapacitated. While many states prohibit a person convicted of a felony from being an executor, Ohio is not one of them.
Ohioans can appoint a nonresident to be their executor only if that individual is related to the decedent by marriage, blood or adoption or they live in a state that allows nonresidents to serve as executors.
Executor’s Duties in Ohio
The probate court ensures that an executor carries out their duties during the process of estate administration. Executors must:
- Locate and collect the decedent’s assets, including bank accounts, real property and personal property subject to administration.
- Safeguard, inventory and have estate property appraised.
- Pay debts to creditors and pay taxes from the estate’s assets.
- Sell the estate’s personal or real property if necessary to pay debts and taxes.
- Distribute remaining assets according to the will. If no will, distribute assets according to state intestacy laws.
A probate court or interested person may require an executor or administrator to give an accounting at any point during the process. After completing the estate’s administration, the executor must render a final accounting within 30 days.
Accountability is a must for an executor, as they act in a fiduciary capacity. A probate attorney can guide them in serving their duties responsibly through all aspects of the process.
Calculation of the Executor’s Fee
Executor and administrator fees in Ohio are:
- 4 percent of the initial $100,000 of probate assets.
- 3 percent of the next $300,000.
- 2 percent of assets over $400,000.
Additionally, there may be a 1 percent fee on non-probate assets with the exception of assets in survivorship. An executor in Ohio can charge a 1 percent fee of a property’s value if it is distributed to an heir and not sold. They may ask for more money if they think their services were extraordinary. An executor’s fee is taxable income and is often waived.
How Attorney Fees Are Calculated in Ohio
Probate attorney's fees are determined as an hourly rate, a flat fee or a percentage of the estate assets.
Fees can be negotiated between attorney and executor. However, some counties publish fee schedules. For example, according to Hamilton County Probate Court, the fee guideline for attorneys is:
- 5.5 percent for the initial $50,000.
- 4.5 percent for amounts up to $100,000.
- 3.5 percent up to $400,000.
- 2 percent over $400,000.
An attorney may charge an additional 1 percent on non-probate assets of the deceased person. In Hamilton County, anything above these guidelines requires the court’s approval. Attorney fees are payable at the end of the probate process when the executor prepares the final accounting and distributes assets to the beneficiaries.
Length of the Ohio Estate Process
In Ohio, claims against a decedent's estate can be made up to six months from the date of death. A small estate with no creditor issues and which doesn’t need to file a federal estate tax return is typically settled within six months of an executor or administrator’s appointment.
However, in the event a federal estate tax return is filed (these are not due until nine months after the death of the decedent), the administration process can last a year or more.
Longer Process if There Are Complications
If an estate’s tax return is audited by the IRS, administration can take another year or more. The executor cannot distribute all of the estate assets until they are released from liability for taxes after completion of the audit.
Additionally, if a will is contested or complex tax litigation exists, the process could take several years. In most instances, distribution of many assets can occur before probate matters are complete.
- NOLO: Ohio Probate: An Overview
- Probatect.org: Probate Division Court of Common Pleas Hamilton County, Ohio
- Ohio Laws & Administrative Rules: Section 2113.35 Commissions
- Probate Stars: What Are the Duties of an Ohio Estate Executor or Administrator?
- Ohio Laws & Administrative Rules: Section 2109.21 Residence Qualifications of Fiduciary
- Probate Stars: What Are the Requirements to Be Executor of an Estate in Ohio?
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.