What is the Butler County Probate Court?
The Butler County Probate Court is located in Hamilton, Ohio and serves the jurisdiction of Butler County. It is a court of limited jurisdiction that primarily oversees estates, trusts, guardianships, mental health issues, marriage licenses, name changes and adoptions. The Probate Court oversees the administration of estates for those who have passed away, serving to transfer assets to beneficiaries and heirs. It also appoints guardians and conservators for minors and incapacitated adults who need assistance making personal or financial decisions.
101 High Street
Hamilton, OH 45011
Location and jurisdiction
The Butler County Probate Court is located at 101 High Street, 2nd Floor in Hamilton, Ohio. It serves the jurisdiction of Butler County, so it oversees probate cases initiated by Butler County residents or concerning individuals who lived or owned property in Butler County. The court handles cases in its downtown Hamilton courthouse as well as cases initiated in the branch courts located in Fairfield and Middletown.
Types of cases handled
The Butler County Probate Court handles a range of legal matters including:
Estates and trusts
The court oversees estate cases for Butler County residents who have died with or without valid wills. It handles the probate process to identify assets, notify heirs, address claims, pay debts and taxes, and distribute inheritance to heirs. The court also handles trust administration issues.
The Probate Court appoints legal guardians for minors and incapacitated adults to make personal and medical decisions on their behalf. It establishes guardianships, sets responsibilities for guardians and oversees the arrangements.
Mental health cases
The court handles some mental health matters including involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations. It also determines competency issues.
Couples can apply for marriage licenses through the Probate Court offices. Licenses can be obtained the same day.
Individuals petitioning for legal name changes for personal or professional reasons start the process through the Probate Court. Background checks are conducted.
Court organization and staff
The Butler County Probate Court handles a high volume of cases. It has an elected judge who appoints magistrates and clerks to assist with various court matters.
The Honorable Michael D. “Mickey” Foellger is the elected Butler County Probate Court judge, having taken office in February 2021. He presides over guardianship, mental health, and civil commitment cases.
The court has five magistrates who hold hearings and make recommendations to the judge for final rulings. Magistrates handle most estate, trust and adoption cases.
Clerk of courts
The court has an elected clerk, Dawn Wilt, along with deputy clerks who handle filings and record-keeping for court cases. The Clerk’s Office receives and processes new case filings.
Probate Court Processes and Procedures
Filing requirements and fees
To initiate a probate court case requires submitting initial filings, meeting formal requirements, and paying applicable fees. Here are some key filing aspects:
Petitions and filings
The petitioner or plaintiff starts a case by submitting the initial petition or complaint paperwork that provides background details, formally requests court action, and follows precise content rules. For example, to open a probate estate, the executor or administrator files the petition along with the death certificate and will.
Court costs and fees
Filing a new case or petition often requires paying various probate court costs and fees at time of submission or throughout the case. Fees depend on the type of suit but can include filing charges, paperwork processing fees, mailing costs if court must notify parties of the suit, attorney fees, and final costs for closing the estate. Petitioners should clarify costs when starting the process. Poor individuals can request waivers for some filing fees.
Hearings and trials
The Probate Court holds both hearings, which tend to address a specific issue in the case, and full trials when evidence must be presented to determine rulings. Attorneys, parties directly involved in the case, and witnesses take part in proceedings. Hearings often rely only on documents and legal arguments, while trials call witnesses to testify.
Decisions and judgments
Court magistrates and judges consider arguments and evidence presented in order to issue decisions, judgments, decrees or orders which provide the court’s ruling and steps required. Written decisions get entered into the case record. Parties receive notification of outcomes by mail in civil cases but decisions often get announced in person if parties are still present at the conclusion of hearings.
Parties dissatisfied with the court’s decision can file appeals which then move the case to the higher 12th District Ohio Court of Appeals. Appellants file proper paperwork and generally need to prove some mistake was made legally or procedurally to overturn the Probate Court ruling. Most appeals fail with probate case judgments upheld. Filing appeals involves added time and significant legal expenses.
Getting Help from the Probate Court
Navigating Probate Court processes can prove confusing for those handling legal issues without attorney representation. Fortunately, the court provides useful self-help resources.
Forms and instructions
Standard Ohio Probate Court estate administration, minor guardianship, and other forms are available along with directions on properly completing and filing them. The court clerks can provide form packets by mail if needed.
FAQs and user guides
Answers to frequently asked questions guide citizens on common concerns like probating without a will or closing estates. Plain language pamphlets also provide step-by-step guidance on legal procedures and requirements at the court.
Attorney referrals and legal aid
While the court clerks and staff can answer basic questions, they cannot provide legal advice or case recommendations. However, they can refer low income parties to legal aid services and the local bar association for referrals to estate planning, family law and other attorneys if deeper legal help becomes necessary.
Records and Document Filing
Record requests and copies
The public can request copies of documents and records for cases filed at the probate court. Standard per page copy fees apply. Certain sensitive documents in guardianship, mental health and a few other case types require a court order before release.
Online case access
Many probate court records can now get accessed online for a nominal fee through third party case research services. Users can look up basic party names, future hearing dates, and case numbers. However, online services do not include downloadable copies of actual pleadings, wills and other documents filed in pending or completed cases.
Document filing and e-filing
Attorneys and self-represented parties can file original petitions and other documents in person at the clerk’s office counter. The court also accepts fax and e-filing of pleadings through the online case management system for existing cases. This allows remote document delivery without traveling downtown. Users must first set up e-filing credentials. Mailed filings also get accepted but clerks take no responsibility for time-sensitive documents not directly received over the counter.
Contact Information for the Court
Address and phone numbers
The main Butler County Probate Court is located at:
101 High Street, 2nd Floor
Hamilton, Ohio 45011
The main phone number is 513-887-3278. Call center staff can connect to appropriate court offices and clerks.
Standard office hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays except major holidays. Filings get accepted during all open hours. Those needing to apply for marriage licenses should arrive by 3:30 p.m. to complete the application before closing.
Website and social media
http://www.butlercountyprobate.org – the court’s official website with forms, FAQs, updates and contact page
Follow the court on Facebook and Twitter for news alerts, closures and event notices.
Common Questions and Answers about the Court
Can I probate a will myself without a lawyer?
Yes, Ohio permits self-representation. The court clerks can provide form packets. Those acting as estate executors or administrators without attorneys take full responsibility for correctly completing legal procedures.
Does the Probate Court process adoptions? Yes, the court handles private, agency, and step-parent adoptions for Butler County children. Background checks, home studies and consent procedures apply.
How quickly are marriage licenses issued? Couples receive marriage licenses the same day as submitting their application if there are no issues with the background check or paperwork.
What are the Butler County Probate Court’s hours? Standard hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays except for legal holidays. Couples should apply for marriage licenses by 3:30 p.m. Filings for other matters are taken until 4 p.m.
Can I access probate court records online? You can look up basic public case details like party names online but cannot download actual case documents without an order. Attorneys also utilize e-filing for existing cases.
The Butler County Probate Court handles a valuable community role overseeing sensitive family legal matters from estates to guardianships and more. Citizens can start cases and access helpful resources for self-representation or utilize attorney referrals as needed for court processes. Following proper procedures aids efficient case resolutions.
What types of cases does the Butler County Probate Court handle? The court handles matters including estate administration, guardianships, name changes, mental health issues, marriage licenses, adoptions and more. It has jurisdiction over these family and probate legal issues falling in Butler County.
How do I file for a marriage license from the court? Couples can complete a marriage license application in person at any of the Probate Court offices during open hours. You need identification and your $50 license fee. Licenses get issued while you wait if paperwork is properly completed and background checks clear.
Can anyone access Probate Court case records online? The public can look up basic docket information like future hearing dates online but cannot download actual case documents without a court order. Attorneys e-file some documents in existing cases through the case management system.
Who oversees Probate Court operations? An elected judge heads the court and appoints magistrates and clerks to handle filings, records, and assist with hearings and estate administrations. The current Probate Judge is Michael D. “Mickey” Foellger.
How do I appeal a Butler County Probate Court decision? You must file appeal paperwork with the court outlining legal or procedural issues with the judgment. The case then moves to the 12th District Court of Appeals for consideration to overturn the Probate Court’s original ruling.