This is one of the most common questions for personal representatives of a deceased person's estate and for many heirs. The answer, of course, is "it depends." The chief determining factors are the size of the estate, the complexity of the assets, the number of heirs, and whether there are likely to be any disputes or will challenges. Taking into account those factors, it is possible to at least estimate how long an Ohio probate estate will take to administer.
For very small estates, summary release from administration is available. This means that there is no probate process at all. An estate qualifies for a summary release from administration if it is valued at $5,000 or less, or if it is valued at $45,000 or less and a surviving spouse inherits the entire estate and is entitled by law to a family support allowance, and the surviving spouse has paid the decedent's funeral expenses or is under obligation to do so.
Not to be confused with summary release from administration, release from administration is a simplified probate process for estates valued at $35,000 or less, or $100,000 or less if a surviving spouse inherits all probate property. This process takes from two to four months.
If formal probate is required, the time frame becomes less predictable. At a minimum, the process will take six months; that is the amount of time that creditors have to file claims against the estate. Aside from that, if the case doesn't have any unusual complexities, it could take from six to nine months. If there are complicating factors, such as the inability to sell real estate, or if the estate will owe state or federal income tax, probate will probably take one to two years.
Probate litigation, such as will contests or disputes over the personal representative's management of the estate, can significantly extend the length of an Ohio probate case. Will contests are relatively uncommon, and must be filed within three months of heirs being notified of the probate matter.
Another factor that can unnecessarily extend the length of a probate matter is errors in filing documents, reports, and accountings of estate business. Fortunately, this is easily avoidable if an experienced Ohio probate attorney is retained to advise and assist the personal representative. Probate attorneys provide a valuable service to the estate and therefore are paid from estate funds, but because their experience can help expedite the resolution of the probate matter, they may actually save the estate money.