When someone passes away in Ohio, the estate they leave behind is generally subject to what is known as probate. Probate is a court-supervised process of administering the assets left behind that don’t pass directly to named beneficiaries, such as a life insurance policy or a home held in joint tenancy. The person assigned to carry out the estate administration is generally known in legal terms as the executor or administrator.

Probate is mandated for many instances when a person dies with or without a will. One of the only avenues for avoiding probate is for the deceased, when alive, to have created a living trust. Trusts pass along assets to heirs without going through probate. Probate can also be streamlined or avoided if the estate is small enough and all assets will pass along to a surviving spouse.

If you’ve lost a loved one who left behind a will, the will often will have named a personal representative to serve as executor during probate. If the will is silent or the loved one dies without a will, the court will appoint an administrator, generally from among close family members.

If you are the designated personal representative, you will face an array of tasks in resolving the administration of the estate, and you may need legal assistance along the way. If you’re a family member, you may want to take steps to ensure the administrator is carrying out his or her duties in the proper way.

In either situation – you’re the named executor of the estate or you’re a family member who is wary of the personal representative’s ability to do everything required – you can count on the estate administration attorneys at StachlerHarmon Attorneys at Law. For 25 years, we have helped clients in and around Dayton, Ohio, carry out and oversee estate administration duties.




The first thing to know about estate administration under probate is what constitutes the estate to be administered. Basically, property and assets that must go through probate are those held solely in the deceased’s name.

Assets that do not need to be probated include insurance policies and retirement accounts with named beneficiaries, joint bank accounts, and property held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. Cars, jewelry, bank or investment accounts held in the deceased’s name only, heirlooms, artwork, and just about anything else with a monetary value will need to go through probate.

If the probate property is less than $100,000 with a surviving spouse as the inheritor, or the total estate is less than $35,000 without a spouse, then the property can go through an expedited probate proceeding. If the estate is less than $45,000 with a surviving spouse, probate can be avoided altogether.

When looking at these figures, remember that a house of any value, a life insurance policy of any value, and a retirement account of any value that pass immediately to the beneficiary are not counted.


The basic goal of probate is to survey the estate, sell off assets as necessary to satisfy creditors and tax obligations, and finally to distribute assets to heirs as specified in the will. If there is no will, the probate court will distribute the assets according to the Ohio Statute of Descent and Distribution.

The steps in the estate administration process can be summarized in this way, assuming that no issues with creditors or challenges of the will’s validity take place:

  • Surveying and then caring for the decedent’s property

  • Receiving payments due to the estate from interest, dividends, and other sources

  • Collecting any debts, claims, notes, or rent due to the estate

  • Creating an interest-bearing account to hold all proceeds

  • Determining the names, ages, addresses, and degree of relationship of all heirs

  • Doing the same for named beneficiaries if there is a will

  • Receiving and investigating all claims against the estate and paying off all obligations (creditors, taxes, and the like)

  • Appraising all property and assets and selling them off at market value as needed to satisfy obligations and beneficiaries

  • Preparing all estate and income tax returns and making the required payments

  • Distributing assets to named beneficiaries if there is a will or carrying out the instructions of the probate court for asset distribution if there is no will

This simplified version covers the major obligations of the executor of the estate, but sometimes issues will arise that can complicate and prolong matters.

A dissatisfied heir may challenge the validity of the will because he or she feels cheated or left out. A creditor may make an unreasonable demand. There may be problems with previous tax returns that need attention. The administrator may feel overwhelmed and unable to complete all the tasks. A lot of possibilities can happen, and often, they will require legal assistance.


The probate process is possible to be completed in about six months if there are no challenges or issues that arise. Larger estates, with many assets and obligations, may take longer. If there are tax-related complications or a challenge to the validity of the will, that can lengthen the process considerably.

There is no estate tax in Ohio, so that shouldn’t slow down the process, and federal estate tax kicks in only when the assets and prior taxable gifts exceed $11.7 million ($12.06 million in 2022).


At StachlerHarmon Attorneys at Law, we can guide and assist you in estate administration if you’re the executor facing challenges or if you’re a family member who suspects the administrator of mismanagement. Whatever your concerns are, bring them to us. We have the experience and resources to help you in all estate administration matters. StachlerHarmon Attorneys at Law is located in Dayton, Ohio, but proudly serves clients in Warren, Greene County, Miamisburg, Butler County, Clark County, and Preble County. Reach out today.