New Probate Legislation Expands Guardian Powers, Clarifies Spousal Rights
New Probate Legislation Expands Guardian Powers, Clarifies Spousal Rights

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down our lives – and even brought many things like school and travel to a grinding halt. However, the work of probate legislation continued in Ohio’s State House.

On May 20, 2021, Governor Mike DeWine signed into law House Bill 7, a bill revising Ohio probate law that was written by the Ohio State Bar Association’s Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Section. Many of Reminger’s estate planners, administrators, and litigators are active in this section.

The new bill takes effect on August 17, 2021. The changes touch on estate planning, estate administration, guardianships, and trusts. Some highlights include the following:

  • When a person is placed under a court-supervised guardianship, their guardian can now petition the court to create an estate plan for the ward. Before this change, once a person was declared incompetent, it could be difficult or impossible to put an estate plan in place. With this change, the probate court – as the superior guardian – can help ensure the ward’s assets transfer more easily after their death. The new law requires notice to be given to certain next-of-kin and others before the estate plan can be authorized.
  • Probate courts can now certify additional types of non-profit corporations to serve as guardians of the person. As the population ages and lives longer, more and more people will need a trusted person to make their medical and other personal decisions for them. With this change, courts will have more options to find trustworthy guardians. The employees of the non-profit who perform the work of the guardianship must complete the necessary training and requirements set forth in the Rules of Superintendence.
  • Ohio law has long allowed a surviving spouse to transfer the deceased spouse’s motor vehicles into their name without probate (up to $65,000 of vehicles). The prior version of the law deducted the value of the least-expensive car from the family allowance, even in cases where the surviving spouse elected only one car. Under this new law, a surviving spouse who elects only one vehicle can still receive their full family allowance ($40,000). Only if the spouse elects two or more motor vehicles will the value of the lower-car be deducted from the spouse’s family allowance.

The bill also makes changes to some creditor rights, name change rules, and the listing of organ donation options on the standard living will.

Whether you are planning for your own estate, serving as the guardian of a loved one, or involved in litigation about trusts and estates, make sure your lawyers are up-to-date on all the new changes to the laws. Contact our experienced team at Reminger.

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