In some situations it is possible and advisable to avoid probate after the death of a loved one under Ohio probate law. Not all property must pass through probate in order to be transferred out of a deceased person’s name. For example, if spouses hold certain property jointly with a right of survivorship, that property can be transferred to the surviving spouse without the expense and delay of probating the estate. Sometimes even property held solely in the deceased spouse’s name (i.e., not joint with right of survivorship) can be transferred without going through probate under Ohio probate law. For example, if a title to a motor vehicle is in beneficiary form, it can transfer to the designated beneficiary upon the death of the owner without the probate process. Also, in Ohio a surviving spouse may obtain ownership of up to two (2) passenger vehicles with a total appraised value of $40,000 or less even if the vehicles are titled solely in the deceased spouse’s name. This can be accomplished by submitting an affidavit to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles rather than going through probate. Vehicles that can be transferred this way include automobiles, pickup trucks, passenger vans, motorcycles and boats (some restrictions apply). Ohio Revised Code Section 4505.10 allows for this type of transfer:
4505.10 Certificate of title when ownership changed by operation of law.
(A) In the event of the transfer of ownership of a motor vehicle by operation of law, as upon inheritance, devise, bequest, order in bankruptcy, insolvency, replevin, or execution sale, a motor vehicle is sold to satisfy storage or repair charges, or repossession is had upon default in performance of the terms of a security agreement as provided in Chapter 1309. of the Revised Code and the secured party has notified the debtor as required by division (B) of section 1309.611 of the Revised Code, a clerk of a court of common pleas, upon the surrender of the prior certificate of title or the manufacturer’s or importer’s certificate, or, when that is not possible, upon presentation of satisfactory proof to the clerk of ownership and rights of possession to the motor vehicle, and upon payment of the fee prescribed in section 4505.09 of the Revised Code and presentation of an application for certificate of title, may issue to the applicant a certificate of title to the motor vehicle. Only an affidavit by the person or agent of the person to whom possession of the motor vehicle has passed, setting forth the facts entitling the person to the possession and ownership, together with a copy of the journal entry, court order, or instrument upon which the claim of possession and ownership is founded, is satisfactory proof of ownership and right of possession. If the applicant cannot produce that proof of ownership, the applicant may apply directly to the registrar of motor vehicles and submit the evidence the applicant has, and the registrar, if the registrar finds the evidence sufficient, then may authorize a clerk to issue a certificate of title. If the registrar finds the evidence insufficient, the applicant may petition the court of common pleas for a court order ordering the clerk to issue a certificate of title. The court shall grant or deny the petition based on the sufficiency of the evidence presented to the court. If, from the records in the office of the clerk involved, there appears to be any lien on the motor vehicle, the certificate of title shall contain a statement of the lien unless the application is accompanied by proper evidence of its extinction.
(B) A clerk shall transfer a decedent’s interest in one or two automobiles to the surviving spouse of the decedent, as provided in section 2106.18 of the Revised Code, upon receipt of the title or titles. An affidavit executed by the surviving spouse shall be submitted to the clerk with the title or titles. The affidavit shall give the date of death of the decedent, shall state that each automobile for which the decedent’s interest is to be so transferred is not disposed of by testamentary disposition, and shall provide an approximate value for each automobile selected to be transferred by the surviving spouse. The affidavit shall also contain a description for each automobile for which the decedent’s interest is to be so transferred. The transfer does not affect any liens upon any automobile for which the decedent’s interest is so transferred.
(C) Upon the death of one of the persons who have established joint ownership with right of survivorship under section 2131.12 of the Revised Code in a motor vehicle, and upon presentation to a clerk of the title and the certificate of death of the decedent, the clerk shall transfer title to the motor vehicle to the survivor. The transfer does not affect any liens upon any motor vehicle so transferred.
(D) Upon the death of the owner of a motor vehicle designated in beneficiary form under section 2131.13 of the Revised Code, upon application for a certificate of title by the transfer-on-death beneficiary or beneficiaries designated pursuant to that section, and upon presentation to the clerk of the certificate of title and the certificate of death of the decedent, the clerk shall transfer the motor vehicle and issue a certificate of title to the transfer-on-death beneficiary or beneficiaries. The transfer does not affect any liens upon the motor vehicle so transferred.
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