Probate has earned a bad reputation over the years. Many people ask how they can avoid it because they worry about how much time and money it will cost them. 

It is true that there are many myths about probate, but it is possible that the negative reputation comes from people going into it unprepared. This is an easy thing to do, because probate is often the last thing a family wants to go through after losing a loved one. However, a comprehensive look at probate might help Ohio families feel less wary about the process.

The steps of the probate process

The state of Ohio probates wills to supervise the legal and fair collection and distribution of the deceased’s assets. Usually, a will appoints an executor, or personal representative, to carry out the wishes outlined in the will. 

It is the personal representative’s duty then, with the supervision and assistance of the probate court, to move forward with the process and:

  • Prove validity: This usually involves a set procedure in the court, where the witnesses verify the will was signed and legitimate.
  • Take inventory: The personal representative then collects, documents and values all the assets of the deceased.
  • Pay bills: These bills can involve taxes, funeral costs, medical bills or any other payments the person left behind when they passed.
  • Distribute assets: The last step is to actually distribute the property among the beneficiaries as listed in the will. 

What if there are disagreements?

There are many stories of harsh family disputes or will contests that also add to probate’s bad reputation. However, Ohio law outlines specific qualifications to contest a will. Someone can contest only if they have a stake in the estate, and if they have reasonable evidence that:

  • The will is not valid
  • The testator was not of sound mind 
  • Someone improperly influenced the testator 

Any of these contests require a civil action lawsuit.

A good estate plan can reduce your stress

Disputes or the probate process should not be a source of anxiety. There is a way families can avoid the stress without taking pains to avoid probate itself.

The key to a smooth probate process is a well-crafted estate plan. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, families can develop a will that can facilitate the future probate and take the pressure off of family member’s shoulders.