Probate vs. Non-probate

When an individual dies, certain assets of the decedent (probate) may be transferred through proceedings in Probate Court. Other assets (non-probate) may be transferred by contract, such as joint and survivorship property or payable on death accounts. People may die owning both probate and non-probate assets, all of which generally required some type of documentation to complete the transfer.

Responsibility of the Court

It is the Probate Court's responsibility to ensure the probate assets are collected, maintained, and distributed among the decedent's heirs, beneficiaries, and/or creditors according to the direction of the decedent as expressed through a will and the laws of Ohio. This process is known as the administration of a decedent's estate.


After the death of an individual, an estate is opened by any interested person filing an application to administer the estate. The application is filed in the county in which the decedent resided. The court will then appoint an estate representative, called a fiduciary, and issue Letters of Authority. The fiduciary is appointed according to the decedent's will or statutory guidelines. If appointed by will, the fiduciary is an executor. If there is no will, the fiduciary is an administrator. It is the responsibility of the fiduciary to administer the decedent's estate and to account to the court for that administration.

A fiduciary who fails to perform her/his statutory duties is subject to removal by the court. A bond may be required of the fiduciary to protect the beneficiaries and creditors of the estate and to ensure proper administration.