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The probate process and asset distribution

Many people in Ohio thinking about the steps needed to care appropriately for their family and their assets after death may wonder what exactly happens during the probate process. Supervised by a court, probate allows a last will and testament to be officially authenticated where one exists; when there is no will, probate can also deal with the distribution of assets according to state law. The process is not limited to the will: It can also include valuing all of the deceased person's assets, paying off bills and taxes and then distributing the assets that remain.

Every state provides different rules for probate, and during the estate planning process, people should be aware of their own state's requirements. Each state has a set of laws that manage the way that assets are distributed if a person dies without a will. Although probate is handled by state law, in practice, these are similar from one state to another and provide a series of potential heirs in order of preference.

When a will is present, a judge will confirm that it is valid. People with concerns about the will can also challenge its validity or legitimacy during the probate process. Without a challenge, the judge will appoint an executor to oversee the process; this person is usually named in the will. That executor is responsible for finding and determining values for all of the decedent's assets, usually through appraisals and statements. Before those assets are passed on to heirs, however, creditors must be paid off and final taxes assessed.

When people want to control what happens to their assets after death and even help their loved ones avoid the probate process for some significant amounts, estate planning is particularly important. An estate planning attorney may help clients execute important documents as well as develop a comprehensive plan that is most beneficial for the estate.

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