Law Articles

Relief of Estate from Administration: Streamlining Small Estates

The main goal of any estate plan is to pass assets to heirs as simply as possible.  For many people, that means taking steps to avoid probate court. They may use revocable living trusts or transfer-on-death designations on bank accounts to make sure their assets pass directly to beneficiaries.  Sometimes, despite all good intentions, a missed asset must go through probate court.  However, depending on the value of the asset, a full estate administration may not be required. 
Ohio law provides for a streamlined process for small estates that avoids opening a traditional probate estate. It is called an Application for Relief from Administration and it avoids the normal requirements of an estate.  No executor is appointed. There are no inventories or accountings to file.  There is no estate checking account. 
The process is available when the total value of assets does not exceed $35,000 (or $100,000 when the decedent's surviving spouse is entitled to inherit all assets). The total value of assets in the Relief from Administration does not include non-probate assets that pass outside of probate court pursuant to joint ownership, beneficiary designations, or transfer-on-death affidavits. 
Basically, any probate asset can be part of the Relief from Administration including real estate, personal effects, chattels, bank accounts, vehicles, and securities.  An appraiser is needed for assets which do not have a readily ascertainable value.

While the process is much faster and easier than administering a traditional estate, there are still some issues an applicant should keep in mind.  She must notify the surviving spouse and heirs that she has filed an application to relieve assets from administration. The probate court will determine the manner of service and whether newspaper publication is required.  Also, the applicant must notify the Medicaid estate recovery program in the event the decedent received benefits prior to death.
The applicant must also determine whether the decedent owed money to creditors.  A probate court will not relieve an estate from administration if creditors will be prejudiced.  Also, the Relief from Administration does not eliminate the need to file an estate tax return, if required. 
An Application for Relief from Administration makes short work of the probate process for smaller estates.  To be sure that that you do everything correctly, is important to consult with a trusted probate attorney.  Laribee & Hertrick, LLP is here to assist you.
This article is intended to provide general information about the law. It is not intended to give legal advice.  Readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney regarding their specific issues and rights.
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