Probate Lawyer and Estate Administration Attorney

Serving clients in Columbus, Hilliard, Dublin, Westerville, New Albany, Reynoldsburg, Grove City, and throughout Ohio.

If you have been named to serve as an executor or estate administrator, I understand the responsibility that lies ahead of you. Depending on the size and complexity of your loved one’s estate, your role may include dealing with attorneys, insurance agents, and other professionals.

At Philip Gauer Law, we can help you navigate difficult situations such as disputes, uncooperative heirs, and financial estate issues. As a Columbus probate lawyer and estate administration attorney, I can be by your side through every step, seeking to ensure your loved one’s last wishes are carried out to their fullest extent. Call my office today at 614-451-8228 to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how I help personal representatives with probate administration duties.

What is Probate?

Probate and estate administration is the process through which a decedent’s assets are gathered, taxes and debts are settled, and remaining assets are distributed according to the wishes of the decedent in his or her last will and testament (or in accordance with Ohio intestacy laws, if the decedent died without a will). Probate can be expensive and time consuming, but with our probate and estate administration attorney representation, you can avoid paying unnecessary fees and potentially save money on court costs.

Probate is typically necessary to administer the legal and financial affairs of a deceased person when that person has assets in his or her name alone, or with others as co-owners. Probate is not necessary when there are assets that pass outside of probate, such as life insurance policies or payable-on-death accounts with a named beneficiary.

What is the Difference Between an Executor and Personal Representative in Ohio?

Even though the terms “Executor” and “Personal Representative” are often used interchangeably, there are important differences between these two very similar roles. An executor is named in a will (with court confirmation), while an personal representative is appointed by a court.

If you have been named an executor, or if a court has appointed you as an administrator, then you are going to be tasked with a variety of issues. It is advisable to consult with a top-rated Columbus probate attorney that can help navigate these challenges.

If you are facing probate or estate administration duties, my practice has the experience to guide you through the process. As a probate lawyer with over two decades of experience, I have handled dozens of probate and estate administration matters, so I know how to get things done quickly and efficiently. Call my office today to schedule a free consultation to learn how I can help fulfill your estate administration role.

What are the Primary Duties of Personal Representatives in Ohio?

As a personal representative in Ohio, you have the responsibility to represent your loved one’s wishes and make sure that their property and assets are distributed accordingly. This includes collecting and valuing all of their property, paying any outstanding debts, making distributions to beneficiaries, and filing tax returns on behalf of the estate. You may also be responsible for ensuring that there is enough money available for probate fees and other costs associated with administration of the estate. As an estate administration lawyer, I can be by your side through every step of the probate process, helping to ensure that your duties are properly fulfilled.

Are Personal Representatives Liable for Estate Debts or Taxes in Ohio?

No. As an executor, you will have a lot of responsibility—but also some specific protections. Your duties will be to ensure that the proper estate debts are paid, the final tax filings are prepared and submitted, and the final tax liabilities are paid. However, personal representatives are not liable for any tax or debt deficiencies. If there are not sufficient funds in the estate, I can advise as to how such debts should be paid.

How Can An Experienced Probate Administration Attorney Help?

As a Columbus probate law firm, I and my team help personal representatives fulfill their duties and make things as easy as possible.

When you hire Philip Gauer Law, I will be available to assist with your probate matter, including:

  • Answering questions about the probate process and duties;
  • Creating and filing appropriate probate and court documents;
  • Inventory and appraisal of estate assets;
  • Guiding you through the estate creditor notification process;
  • Addressing claims against the estate to determine valid and invalid claims;
  • Providing advice regarding how to divide assets (if not specified in a valid will); and
  • Suggesting how to distribute sentimental assets or single assets given to multiple individuals (such as a house that is left to multiple children).

What Types of Assets Can Be Transferred Outside of Probate in Ohio?

If you’re planning to transfer an asset to someone after your death, you might be surprised to find that many common assets actually do not need to go through probate. Examples of assets that can be transfer outside of probate include (but are not limited to):

  • Assets held in trust (for example, a revocable living trust designed to avoid probate)
  • Assets owned in “survivorship tenancy” or “joint and survivorship” form, which pass automatically to the surviving owner
  • Assets held by a married couple in tenancy by the entirety (if created between 1972 and 1984)
  • Assets subject to a beneficiary designation (e.g., retirement accounts for which a beneficiary has been named, pay-on-death (POD) bank accounts, etc.)
  • Insurance policy proceeds with a named beneficiary
  • Transfer-on-death real estate

Can I Avoid Formal Probate in Ohio?

In Ohio, a less expensive, simplified probate process is available if:

  • An estate’s value is $35,000 or less; or
  • A surviving spouse is entitled to inherit all probate property, and the value of the estate is $100,000 or less.[1]

Probate may be avoidable, entirely, through a Summary Release from Administration if the estate is worth less than $5,000 or the cost of funeral and burial expenses (whichever is less). Alternatively, a spouse may also petition for a release if:

  • The surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate and a family support allowance;
  • All of the decedent’s assets are worth no more than $45,000; and
  • The surviving spouse has paid (or is obligated to pay) the funeral costs.[2]

How Should a Personal Representative Distribute Estate Assets in Ohio if There is No Will?

If there is no will, Ohio intestacy law determines who is entitled to inherit. Generally, in these situations, all people who have the same family relationship to the decedent will be entitled to inherit equal shares. Family members who are entitled to a share of the decedent’s estate are referred to as “distributees.”

As the personal representative, an appointed individual is tasked with dividing assets and property equally to each of the eligible distributees. Because apportionment of assets is dependent on the distributees’ relationship to the decedent, it is critical to be aware of the following asset distribution hierarchy:

  • If a decedent is survived by a spouse and no children, the entire estate goes to the spouse.
  • If a decedent is survived by a spouse and one or more children or their descendants, and if all are biological children of the surviving spouse, the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse.
  • If a decedent is survived by a spouse and one child or the child’s descendants and if the surviving spouse is not the biological or adoptive parent of the child, the spouse receives the first $20,000 from the estate plus one-half the remainder of the estate. The balance of the estate passes to the child or, if the child is deceased, to the child’s descendants.
  • If a decedent is survived by a spouse and more than one child or their descendants, the spouse receives the first $60,000 if the spouse is the natural or adoptive parent of one, but not all of the children, or the first $20,000 if the spouse is not the natural or adoptive parent of any of the children. The spouse receives one-third of the balance of the estate and the children will receive two-thirds of the balance of the estate in equal portions.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, but surviving children or their descendants, each of the children receives an equal share of the estate.
  • If the decedent has no surviving spouse or children and no descendants of deceased children, the estate goes to his or her surviving parent(s) or, if both parents have died, in equal shares to brothers and sisters or their descendants.[3]

As a probate attorney with over three decades of experience, I can advise you as to who is entitled to what share if there is no will.

Answering Your Questions About Probate and Estate Administration in Ohio

Immediately following formal appointment, personal representatives often have a number of practical questions, such as:

  • How do I manage estate assets (e.g., should insurance payments on a house be continued?)?
  • How do I pay debts if the estate does not have liquidity?
  • How can I access my deceased loved one’s bank accounts?

Not only can I help with questions and issues such as these, but I can advise on how to accomplish estate administration obligations while best protecting the personal representative in the event of a will or probate contest by a potential family heir or beneficiary. As an Ohio estate administration and probate lawyer, my role is to guide you through the estate administration process and to help settle matters expeditiously and cost effectively.

Call Philip Gauer Law Today to Schedule a Free Consultation With Columbus Probate Attorney Phil Gauer.

[1] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2113.03.

[2] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2113.031.

[3] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2105.06; Law Facts: Administering an Estate Without a Will, Ohio Bar, Law Facts: Administering an Estate Without a Will | Ohio State Bar Association (