• Tim Lofton

How To Avoid Probate in Ohio — Common Methods for Escaping the High Cost, Hassle and Public Scrutiny


Timothy P. Lofton, Managing Partner - Cornerstone Consulting Group | CEO - The Retirement Blueprint™ | Author | Speaker

Published on January 15, 2018

To avoid probate in Ohio, probate attorneys and estate planning attorneys use a variety of strategies available under probate law to transfer the ownership of assets directly to beneficiaries upon a person's death.

The most efficient and reliable way to avoid probate court is to place all assets into a trust. Because a trust is a legal entity that owns the assets rather than an individual owning them, the assets do not go through probate. Instead, the creator of the trust provides instructions for how the trust's assets are to be handled or distributed after the creator's death. Administration of a trust is handled privately, without interference from a court, and is usually less expensive than the probate process.

However, sometimes a person decides not to use a trust. In these cases, there are three principal ways to keep assets out of probate in Ohio.

3 Ways to Avoid Probate in Ohio Without Using a Trust

Ohio's probate laws exempt three types of personally owned assets from probate upon the owner's death:

  • Transfer on Death assets (TOD)

  • Payable on Death assets (POD)

  • Jointly owned assets with rights of survivorship (JTWROS)

Transfer on Death

If you have real estate, vehicles or securities you are not going to put in a trust, you can still avoid probate in Ohio by registering these assets to transfer on death (TOD). In registering them in this way, you must name the beneficiaries to whom ownership of the asset will transfer upon your death.

To designate an asset to transfer on death, you must make the designation on the deed, title or registration of each asset you wish to handle this way. Ohio probate laws only allow real estate, vehicles or securities (stocks, bonds and similar) to be designated as transfer on death. An Ohio probate attorney can assist you with this process if you prefer not to handle it yourself.

Payable on Death

Ohio probate law also permits people to designate bank accounts and certificates of deposit as payable on death (POD). As with TOD assets, you'll name the beneficiaries who are to receive the assets after your death. If you choose this option, you'll retain full control of the account while you are alive. Your beneficiaries will have no claim on the accounts until you die, at which time they can claim the money in the account directly from the bank and will avoid probate in Ohio.

Life insurance policies are another form of payable-on-death assets as the payout from these policies pass directly to your designated beneficiaries upon your death. No court is involved unless you fail to name a beneficiary or the beneficiary named is deceased, in which case the money is paid to probate court and distributed in the normal probate process.

Jointly Owned Assets with Rights of Survivorship

The final way to avoid probate in Ohio that probate attorneys use is available for real estate, vehicles, bank accounts and other valuable property. Known as joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, it is commonly used by married couples for the house and property that is their residence. When an asset is owned jointly with rights of survivorship, the surviving owner takes full ownership of the property upon the death of the other owner. No probate is necessary. Under Ohio probate laws, each owner or joint tenant must own an equal share of the asset in order to qualify for joint tenancy.

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