Ohio’s probate statutes have been updated to bring more efficiency to the probate process and modernize the language of the law. The new laws will apply to estates of decedents who die after January 13, 2012. Many of the provisions are revised to make the statutes gender neutral and to update archaic language such as “lunacy”, “forthwith” and “chattels”. Other provisions adjust time limits on certain actions; limiting the time allowed for extensions (6 months maximum), reducing the time for admitting an oral will (from 6 to 3 months) and the time one can wait to file a will without penalty (from 3 years to 1 year). Some of the most significant changes expand or limit the rights of creditors, fiduciaries and beneficiaries.
Creditors will be entitled to question a fiduciary under oath and to receive notice of the filing of accounts. Actions brought against the fiduciary for failure to pay debts of the estate may be transferred from probate to the General Division of the court.
Fiduciaries’ rights will be expanded to allow them to use or purchase property from an estate or trust. Investment options will be expanded to allow a broader range of asset classes such as credit union accounts and foreign investments. Commissioners appointed in a Release from Administration will be permitted to sell property. Individuals who are not Ohio residents may be appointed guardian of the person. Fiduciaries that conceal assets or fail to keep the court informed of their current address will be removed. The new rules establish procedures to ease the process for replacing fiduciaries.
Beneficiaries will also be able to examine fiduciaries under oath. They may be able to avoid probate in collecting the last wages of a loved one, or transferring certain real estate. Allowing an auditor’s evaluation to be used rather than hiring an appraiser will save on estate administration costs.
It’s important that our legislature update statutes periodically to keep pace with society’s changing needs and customs. It’s equally important that you choose an attorney who keeps abreast of these changes. Major changes to Ohio’s Trust and Power of Attorney statutes are also expected in 2012. March’s Update on the Law will address those changes and how they will affect our clients.