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Probate Services . . .

HISTORY OF THE PROBATE COURT


SERVICES

JURISDICTION OF THE COURT

The Ohio Revised Code places over two hundred separate duties upon the probate court. Those duties range from issuing marriage licenses to overseeing testamentary trusts valued in millions of dollars. The following is a brief outline and description of some of the duties of the court.

ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES

Estate administration involves the court overseeing transfer of a decedentís probatable assets to his beneficiaries and heirs. The court accomplishes this task by appointing a fiduciary, either an executor or an administrator, who collects the assets, pays any outstanding debts and then distributes the remaining assets to those who are entitled to receive them. The court supervises the actions of the fiduciary by requiring a bond, when necessary, and the filing of various documents, including an inventory and an accounting.

WILLS

†††† The Probate Court is responsible for testamentary wills as follows:

Safekeeping Ė Prior to the death of the testator (maker), for a small filing fee, a will may be deposited with the probate court for safekeeping.

Probate Ė On the death of the testator, a will is admitted to probate by the court, Once admitted the will may control estate administration and the distribution of the decedentís assets. If no will is admitted to probate, the Ohio Revised Code will control the administration and distribution of the decedentís assets.

Will Contest Ė If a will is contested, a trial is conducted by the court to determine the validity of the will. If requested, a trial by jury is mandatory.

GUARDIANSHIPS

†††† The court may appoint, after hearing and investigation, a guardian for a minor or for an adult who is found to be incompetent to take proper care of himself or his property. A guardian, with court supervision, is responsible for making personal and/or financial decisions for the ward. Court supervision is accomplished, in part, through the filing of reports and accountings by the guardian. Both a minor and an adult ward have a number of rights and protections to insure against an unnecessary or ineffective guardianship, including, for the adult ward, the right to be represented by an attorney.

CONSERVATORSHIPS

†††† The court grants a conservatorship when the conservatee, the person who is the subject of the conservatorship, consents. A conservatee must be mentally competent, but physically infirm. The laws and procedures of guardianship, may apply to conservatorships.

MENTAL ILLNESS AND MENTAL RETARDATION

†††† Civil involuntary commitments of the mentally ill and retarded to state hospitals are the responsibility of the probate court. The court is required to hold evidentiary hearings to determine the appropriateness of commitment and the length and place of treatment. Since the involuntary††† commitment involves the loss of liberty, the court insures protection of an individualís rights by providing legal representations at each step of the commitment process.

ADOPTIONS

†††† All adoptions must be approved by the probate court before they become final. Person or persons wishing to adopt are required to submit to an investigation of their living environment by professionally-trained personnel to insure their suitability as parents.

BIRTH CERTIFICATES,
REGISTRATION, AND CORRECTION

†††† If a birth has not been recorded, or if a birth certificate has been lost, destroyed, or improperly or inaccurately recorded, the probate court has the power, upon application, to require recording, or correction of the certificate.

†††† Information on births before 1908 is available from the probate court. For individuals born prior to 1908, a certified certificate of birth may be obtained from the probate court.

CHANGES OF NAME

†††† Applications for legal change of name are filed in the probate court. After publishing notice and hearing, the court, if reasonable and proper cause exists, may grant a name change.

MARRIAGE LICENSES

The probate court has exclusive jurisdiction to issue marriage licenses. After review of the application, a deputy clerk will issue a license for marriage. Over 100,000 marriage licenses are issued annually by Ohio Probate Courts.

LEGITIMATIONS Not in Probate Court as of 1-1-1998

TESTAMENTARY AND INTER VIVOS TRUSTS

The probate court is responsible for insuring that the terms of testamentary trusts (those created by a will) are complied with. This is accomplished, in part, through periodic accountings to the court. Questions involving interpretation and enforcement of both testamentary and inter vivos trusts (those created during a personís lifetime) may be submitted to court.

APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS

†††† It is the responsibility of the probate judge to appoint members of various independent boards and commissions. As an example, all of the members of County Metropolitan Parks Boards and Facilities Review Boards are appointed by the probate judge. In addition, when a vacancy occurs on a school board or a board of township trustees, the probate judge, after a period of time prescribed by statute, must appoint an individual to fill the vacancy.

LEGAL PRACTICE IN THE PROBATE COURT

Legal practice in the probate court is restricted by law to attorneys who are licensed by the Supreme Court of Ohio, If an individual wishes to handle his or her own case, he or she may do so; however, they may not represent others. Due to the complexity of the law and desire to avoid costly errors, many individuals who have filings before the court are represented by an attorney. Deputy clerks are prevented by law from practicing law and, therefore, are limited in the amount of advice they are permitted to give.