The Comprehensive Guide to Probate, Trusts, Estate Planning, and Inheritance Litigation

Small Estates In Ohio

A simplified and streamlined procedure is available under Ohio probate law to settle small estates, that is, estates with assets below a certain threshold.

If decedent’s estate qualifies as a small estate under Ohio law, a formal probate proceeding is unnecessary.  This streamlined process saves both time and money.

What Qualifies As A Small Estate In Ohio?

An Ohio estate qualifies as a small estate if the value of the probate estate is:

  • $35,000 or less; OR
  • $100,000 or less and the entire estate goes to the decedent’s surviving spouse whether under a valid will or under intestacy.

 

Ohio Revised Code section 2113.03 sets forth the requirements for a small estate and states:

(A) Subject to division (I) of this section, an estate may be released from administration under division (B) of this section if either of the following applies:

(1) The value of the assets of the estate is thirty-five thousand dollars or less.

(2) The value of the assets of the estate is one hundred thousand dollars or less and either of the following applies:

(a) The decedent devised and bequeathed in a valid will all of the assets of the decedent’s estate to a person who is named in the will as the decedent’s spouse, and the decedent is survived by that person.

(b) The decedent is survived by a spouse whose marriage to the decedent was solemnized in a manner consistent with Chapter 3101. of the Revised Code or with a similar law of another state or nation, the decedent died without a valid will, and the decedent’s surviving spouse is entitled to receive all of the assets of the decedent’s estate under section 2105.06 of the Revised Code or by the operation of that section and division (B)(1) or (2) of section 2106.13 of the Revised Code.

 

How Do You Determine If An Ohio Estate Is A Small Estate?

To determine whether a decedent’s estate qualifies as a small estate in Ohio, you include the value of decedent’s personal and real property that is part of the probate estate.  For a refresher on what assets are probate assets, see the Probate and Non-Probate Assets Chart.  If the probate assets are less than $35,000, or less than $100,000 and being inherited by the surviving spouse, the estate qualifies as a small estate.

By way of example, let’s say John died in Ohio with the following assets:

  • A bank account with $5,000
  • A motorcycle with a value of $12,500
  • A savings account with $45,000 naming his son as the beneficiary

 

John’s estate would qualify as a small estate under Ohio law, because only the bank account with $5,000 and the motorcycle would be included in the calculation.  The savings account would not be included in the estate because it would go directly to the pay on death beneficiary.

How Do You Value Assets To Figure Out If You Have A Small Estate?

If the decedent died with only bank accounts, then determining whether or not the estate qualifies as a small estate under Ohio law is easy – you determine the amounts held in each account and add them up.

If decedent had other property, the value of which is not readily ascertainable, such as perhaps a stamp collection or antique furniture, the Ohio Revised Code provides that the value shall be determined by an appraiser selected by the person applying for the small estate, subject to the approval of the court.  The appraiser’s valuation of the property shall be reported to the court in the application to relieve the estate from administration.

How Do You Apply For A Small Estate In Ohio?

Once you have determined that the estate qualifies as a small estate under Ohio law, you apply to the court to release the court from administration.  This simply means that you are asking the court to enter an order relieving the estate from the requirements of formal administration, and qualifying the estate as a small estate.

Section 2113.03(b) of the Ohio Revised Code states:

(B) Upon the application of any interested party, after notice of the filing of the application has been given to the surviving spouse and heirs at law in the manner and for the length of time the probate court directs, and after notice to all interested parties by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the county, unless the notices are waived or found unnecessary, the court, when satisfied that division (A)(1) or (2) of this section is satisfied, may enter an order relieving the estate from administration and directing delivery of personal property and transfer of real property to the persons entitled to the personal property or real property.

What Is A Summary Release From Administration In Ohio?

Even smaller than a small estate is an estate that qualifies for a summary release from administration pursuant to Ohio Revised Code section 2113.031.

An estate qualifies for a summary release from administration if the estate is worth less than $5,000, or if someone paid funeral and burial expenses (up to $5,000) and requests reimbursement from the court.

The surviving spouse can apply for summary release from administration if either of the following applies:

(a) The decedent’s funeral and burial expenses have been prepaid, and the value of the assets of the decedent’s estate does not exceed the total of the following items:

(i) The allowance for support that is made under division (A) of section 2106.13 of the Revised Code to the surviving spouse and, if applicable, to the decedent’s minor children and that is distributable in accordance with division (B)(1) or (2) of that section;

(ii) An amount, not exceeding five thousand dollars, for the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses referred to in division (A)(2)(c) of this section.

(b) The decedent’s funeral and burial expenses have not been prepaid, the decedent’s surviving spouse has paid or is obligated in writing to pay the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses, and the value of the assets of the decedent’s estate does not exceed the total of the items referred to in divisions (B)(2)(a)(i) and (ii) of this section.

Do You Need an Ohio Probate Lawyer For A Small Estate?

It is always a good idea to consult with an Ohio probate lawyer to make sure that the estate qualifies as a small estate, and to make the proper application to the court.

 

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Hamilton County (Cincinnati)

Jennifer R. Harlow