Probate Follows Generally Similar Steps for Simple Estates

The general probate process is similar in all states. The terminology may vary to some extent in the different jurisdictions, creating what looks like divergent laws and procedures. Actually, the general pattern of probate is similar from state to state. At the same time, it is necessary to be familiar with the specific probate laws in one's state, including here in Ohio, to probate an estate most efficiently and in a timely manner.

The first step after the funeral and ceremonial events is for the executor named in the will to go into the county probate court and file the decedent's will. The executor is accompanied by the attorney chosen to assist the executor in getting through the process with success. The executor will receive an oath of office and letters testamentary or their equivalent will be issued.

The letters testamentary are simply verification by the state that the executor is authorized to act on behalf of the estate. This document must be ordered in the numbers needed because each time the executor asks a bank to close out an account and make the proceeds payable to the estate, the bank or insurer or investment company, or other institution, will demand an official verification of the executor's authority. This is all done as part of the process whereby the executor must collect all of the assets of the estate and turn them into money.

The funds must be held in the estate checking account for paying bills and expenses, pending final settlement and distribution of the remaining estate assets. In a relatively simple estate in Ohio, there may be residential real estate that is bequeathed, for example, to the decedent's children. The property may be sold by the executor and the proceeds placed into the account pending final distribution. The estate may also convey the real estate directly to the beneficiaries by a probate deed. They can then sell it or live in it as desired.

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