The word "probate" itself means to prove or validate. So, probating a will is the process of proving that the document is authentic, a true representation of the wishes of the person making the will, known as the testator. Even if a last will and testament truly represents the testator's wishes, however, it must also meet certain legal requirements to be valid and legally enforceable in Ohio.
A will generally does not have any legal effect until it is probated. Let's say a testator keeps his will in his desk drawer, and his wife, who knows the will's location, is named as personal representative. When the testator dies, the wife cannot simply take out the will and distribute the property as it dictates. The Ohio probate court for the county in which the deceased testator lived must first probate the will, then oversee the distribution of assets. If a testator lived outside of Ohio, but owned real property in Ohio, his or her will must be probated in Ohio as well as the home state.
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A probate lawyer's primary function is to advise the personal representative of a deceased person's estate in the administration of the estate. Whether or not the deceased person (decedent) had a will, there are many legal requirements that must be followed in handling the estate. The personal representative (sometimes also called an executor or estate administrator) has many responsibilities and is charged with protecting the rights of both creditors of the estate and heirs.
Most personal representatives are family members who are not terribly familiar with probate law. The law recognizes that, for this reason, the services of an experienced probate attorney are a benefit to the estate, and the attorney's fees are paid from estate funds, not the personal representative's.
The probate attorney guides the personal representative through every step of the Ohio probate process, which includes:
If a loved one recently passed away, having named you personal representative (executor) of his or her estate, your first task should be to choose a probate attorney to guide you through the Ohio probate process. You may also be looking for a probate attorney if the deceased's will did not name an executor, if the named executor is deceased or otherwise unavailable, or if you believe the current executor is not carrying out his or her duties.
Knowing you need a probate attorney is one thing; selecting and retaining one is another. There may be a sense of urgency, but it's worth taking the time to be sure that your probate attorney has the knowledge of Ohio probate law and the experience in local probate courts to efficiently and effectively guide you through the probate process.
This article assumes that you are the personal representative of the deceased person's (decedent's) estate, but these guiding principles are relevant no matter what your reason for seeking a probate attorney.
First and foremost, probate work should be a significant part of the attorney's practice, not just something they do to help ou… Read More