John Argabright knew it was a good idea and maybe past due for his 100-year-old father to take care of some personal legal obligations.
But the 75-year-old Norton man didn’t realize just how soon.
Argabright and his father, Golden Argabright of Barberton, attended an August meeting in the village of Clinton after hearing about a probate court information program run by Summit County Probate Judge Todd McKenney.
McKenney’s project began in January attempting to help county residents understand court procedures and avoid probate by examining residential deeds.
Residential deeds in about half of the county’s 31 communities were checked by volunteers and homeowners. They were researching who could benefit from the creation of a Joint and Survivorship Deed or another document called a transfer on death affidavit (often called a TOD or a TOD deed). McKenney, who is not running for re-election, said the future of the project will rest with the next probate judge. But McKenney believes there is a volunteer network in place to find ways to help people.
The transfer allows a property to go from a single person or widow or widower to heirs. Both scenarios would transfer property without probate court involvement, he said.
McKenney said these are recommended for people in a first marriage or those who are single with adult children and with a home as their largest asset. Single or divorced parents with minor children might not want to have a TOD to young children.
The final meeting on the project will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, at The Chapel, 1800 Raber Road in Green. It is open to the public.
The Argabrights had heard about the meetings from friends, said John Argabright.
“We had no idea concerning what would happen or what we were to do in the case of a death. My dad was 100 years old. I knew that was something we should look into,” Argabright said.
“The information [McKenney] gave us was, well, eye-opening. We had no idea. It really saved us a lot of problems and worry and time. It made a difficult and very confusing situation not so difficult at all,” Argabright said.
Golden Argabright was in great health. In fact, father and son played golf three times a week and Golden got his first hole-in-one earlier this summer. But Golden developed a blockage to his intestines in late September and died Oct. 6.
But Golden Argabright did make two changes to the deed for the Barberton home that he lived in until his death. Golden’s wife, Catherine, died in 1999, but the Argabrights had no idea they should have taken her name off the deed, said their son. McKenney instructed them to do a “release from administration” deed transfer to his name only, which took about two to three weeks. Then the Argabrights did a transfer on death affadavit for Golden Argabright to John Argabright in early September.
John Argabright is getting ready to sell the house and will divide the proceeds with two sisters, but has also registered a transfer on death for the house to the sisters, if something were to happen to him.
John Argabright also filed a new survivorship deed for his house with his wife and is planning on a transfer on death for his children.
Although Golden Argabright took care of transfer on death designations for one set of bank accounts, John Argabright didn’t know about another bank account without a TOD. So Golden Argabright’s estate will still have to go through a probate estate case, said McKenney.
“It’s a cautionary tale. It is helping them [to have done the TODs] and I don’t want to scold them for not doing the bank account,” McKenney said. “They heard [about the project] and a lot of people are responding.”
According to Summit County Fiscal Officer Kristen Scalise’s department, the number of survivorship-type deed filings have more than doubled through October of this year compared to the same time last year. This year, 2,362 were filed and last year, 1,024 were filed in the same period.
Earlier Beacon Journal reports on the subject, including directions for checking your own deed and details about what other items can be designated as transfer on death (such as cars and bank accounts), are online at http://tinyurl.com/probateproject and http://tinyurl.com/probateprojectadvice.
Click on “related stories” within those pages for more stories or go online to www.ohio.com and click on “probate project” for previous stories.
The Schellenbergers of Stow are another grateful family.
Logan Schellenberger saw the letter that came to his parents’ house sometime in August, notifying them that their house deed could benefit from being changed.
Schellenberger had been familiar with the project from reading it in this column.
“I had saved the article and put it on my to-do list,” Schellenberger said.
His father, Dick Schellenberger, had recently been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor.
“It couldn’t have been better timing. Judge McKenney helped us get the paperwork signed and it couldn’t have been simpler,” Logan Schellenberger said.
Dick Schellenberger, who taught at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy for years and retired at age 80, died on Oct. 3 at 82.
Logan said he was in the process of getting the house’s deed now transferred into just his mom’s name and then will set up a TOD to the five children. He estimates the cost will be about $100.