Leaving one's estate in the hands of the Ohio court system could have a serious financial impact. Dying without a will leaves little choice because officials must ensure that the assets of a decedent are rightfully distributed to legal heirs. In the process, the executor may incur expenses related to these activities, which will typically be deducted from estate assets. While this might seem like a good reason to create a will, it is important to understand that having such a document does not remove the need for probate.
Probate can take an extensive amount of time in the case of an intestate decedent, but those who leave wills might still subject the testator's designated heirs to delays in receiving their inheritances. The probate process is designed to ensure that a will has been legally executed. Heirs could also dispute the details of a will, which could cause probate to continue for a longer period. One additional challenge in subjecting an estate to probate is the fact that the process is public.
People desiring greater control over the distribution of their assets at death have some options for limiting the need for probate. Beneficiary designations typically exempt certain assets from the process. Life insurance and retirement accounts are examples of such assets. An account that does not allow for a beneficiary designation might be managed with instructions to pay or transfer upon death to a designated party.
Joint tenancy provisions with right of survivorship allow assets to be immediately passed to the surviving spouse. Living trusts allow for a grantor's assets to be managed by a trustee without going through probate. These matters require careful contemplation and frequent review, which makes reliable legal counsel an important facet of estate planning.