Estate Planning, Probate & Settlement

Living will photo imageEstate Planning

Death can wreak havoc on a family, often causing anger, dissension and in-fighting among those left behind. The surest way to avoid conflict and keep peace in the family is with smart estate planning. We have attorneys at Sitterley, Vandervoort & Davis Ltd. who are certified by the Ohio State Bar Association in the area of Estate Planning, Trust and Probate law. They can help you determine the best, most efficient way to make sure their wishes are known and executed.

There are three ways to plan your estate.

  1. Make a will. It is a simple document, usually only a few pages, that is easy for most people to read and understand.
  2. Establish a trust. This is a legal arrangement that provides directions regarding the future management of the estate and the beneficiaries of specific property and assets.
  3. Name beneficiaries and make joint designations. This ensures that assets transfer upon death to the surviving named beneficiaries or joint owners. This is ‘non-probate’ and avoids the necessity of going to Probate Court.


When an Ohio resident dies owning property, then a determination must be made regarding who should receive it. If the decedent was the only owner, then a legal process is begun to:

  • Determine if there is a valid will and, if none exists, verify the next of kin.
  • Establish the nature of the deceased’s assets and debts.
  • Carry out the distribution of assets based on the decedent’s will or the requirements of Ohio’s Statute of Descent and Distribution.

The primary court with jurisdiction determines asset distribution, and this is known as the Probate Court. The process is generally referred to as probate.

Estate Tax

It is a common misconception that if an asset is non-probate, then it avoids estate taxes. Almost all assets owned at death, both probate and non-probate, are included as part of the decedent’s gross taxable estate. To determine if you or your family are at risk of paying estate taxes, please see the estate tax chart (create a link to our Recent History of Estate Taxes Page)

Let the attorneys at Sitterley, Vandervoort & Davis Ltd. help you understand your legal responsibilities and options, and assist you in navigating the choppy waters that surround asset management. Let them advise you on the best course of action for you and your family so that your wishes are carried out and your family’s needs are met. We will work diligently on your behalf.