Settling Small Estates (OH)

Updated Apr 5, 2024
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In Ohio, full probate is not required for "small" estates, or estates that contain only real estate. Regardless of estate size, probate is not required at all if an estate contains only assets exempt from probate.

Release from Administration Requirements

If an OH estate's value falls below certain thresholds, you can apply for a release from administration, eliminating most probate requirements.

Standard Release

If the gross value of the estate is <$35,000, or is <$100,000 and will be solely inherited by a surviving spouse, then you can apply for a standard release from administration.

As part of this reduced process, you will have to notify any surviving spouse and heirs-at-law of your application as directed by the court (see Form 5.3) and notify all interested parties by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the county, unless the notices are waived by the court.

Application to Relieve Estate from Administration

Summary Release

If there is a surviving spouse and the gross value of the estate is <$40,000, you can apply for a summary release from administration. If the surviving spouse paid for, or is obligated to pay for, the funeral and/or burial bill, that amount (up to an additional $5K) can be added to the limit, bringing the total limit to $45K.

If there is no surviving spouse, the estate must be worth less than $5K to obtain a summary release.

Application for Summary Release

Real Estate Only

See section below for special handling available to estates that contain only real estate.

See Ohio Rev Code § 2113.03 and 2113.031 for small estate statutes.

Estate Valuation

When determining whether an OH estate qualifies as "small", you should value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any debts.

Do not include assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with right of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.

Some assets can be easily valued, such as bank accounts and publicly traded stocks. If the estate contains assets whose value is not easily determinable, you are required to hire a professional appraiser to determine their values.

Release Application

The application for either type of release from administration must be notarized, and include the following:

For a summary release, you will also need to provide proof of funeral and burial expenses if using those to increase the estate value limit.

For a standard release, you may want to have all heirs and potential heirs-at-law (people who would inherit if there were no will) sign the application so you can forgo any required notifications. There will likely be additional forms required as well: check with your local court.

Real Estate Only

If the estate contains only real property (i.e., real estate), there are no unpaid estate debts, and the decedent died more than 6 months ago, you can use a Certificate of Transfer to change the ownership of the property in accordance with the will or intestate inheritance (see below).

To use this process,

  • Fill out the Application for Certificate of Transfer form.
  • Submit the form to the appropriate probate court (see Court below).
  • The court will issue a Certificate of Transfer
  • Submit this Certificate to the County Recorder's Office

Note that the property will still be subject to any associated liens or mortgages.

See Ohio Rev Code § 2113.61.

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any Family Entitlements in OH, which typically have priority over everything except expenses of the last illness, funeral charges, and any estate administrations expenses.

Even if the estate does not go through probate, you may still be entitled to Executor Compensation in OH, and this compensation also has priority over most estate debts.

Estate debts have priority over most distributions in turn, so before distributing assets you should resolve any estate debts. If the estate makes any distributions beyond amounts set aside for family entitlements, unpaid creditors have the right to sue the recipients for repayment using those excess distributions. Consequently, even if the settlement process does not require you to publish a Notice to Creditors, you may want to follow OH probate rules for finding estate debts, since doing so may limit the time creditors have to pursue repayment.

If estate solvency is uncertain, an executor should consider going through official probate for the increased creditor protection it offers. Alternately, such uncertainty can sometimes persuade creditors to forgive a portion of debts, since they will want to avoid legal expenses as well, and may prefer to get something rather than nothing.

See also Making Distributions.

Intestate Inheritance

If the decedent died without a will, he or she is considered to have died "intestate", and thus the laws of descent and distribution control who should inherit the estate (see Ohio Rev Code § 2105.06 for details).

No Small Estate Affidavit

Many people ask about using a small estate affidavit without any court involvement, but OH does not support such an affidavit. You must use one of the above methods (or full probate) for handling small estates in OH.


In Ohio, the Probate Division of the local Court of Common Pleas handles wills and estate matters.

Additional Information

If your estate doesn't qualify for a small estate approach, or you're simply interested in exploring standard probate, take a look at Probate in OH.

And since probate is just the court-supervised subset of winding up a person's affairs after death, you'll probably want to check out our Complete Guide to Estate Settlement in OH.

Finally, in case you're interested, details about handling small estates in other states can be found here:

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