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What happens if someone dies without a will in Ohio?

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2023 | Probate and Trust Administration

Careful estate planning is a smart move for any adult with personal resources or dependent family members. Those who have valuable property typically want to designate a specific person to receive those assets when they die. People with spouses and children want to ensure that their loved ones receive appropriate support when they can no longer directly provide financial resources and daily guidance.

An estate plan can help someone feel confident while going about their daily life because they know that their wishes will be respected if the worst happens. However, statistics show that the vast majority of adults in Ohio and across the United States do not have an estate plan or even a simple will. What happens if someone dies without an estate plan in Ohio?

State law has rules for this scenario

Given that roughly two-thirds of adults die without an estate plan, it is only logical that Ohio state statutes have rules for this exact situation. Intestate succession laws describe what should happen to someone’s property if they die without any estate planning documents in place.

Some people assert that the state claims the resources of anyone who dies without a will. Although that can happen, it is relatively uncommon. Assets that belong to someone would first pass to their family members before the state could lay claim to those resources.

Typically, the spouses and children of those who die without estate plans have the strongest right of inheritance. Ohio law allows resources to pass the more distant family members, including parents, siblings and even grandparents if someone has neither a spouse nor any living progeny. It is only in the relatively rare scenario where the state cannot locate any living relatives that the state would eventually lay claim to someone’s resources.

Still, the average person would prefer to integrate a bit more nuance into their estate plan. They might want to leave specific assets for certain people in their lives. They may want to leave money for charitable causes. They may have close loved ones who do not actually share a biological or legal relationship with them. Those who die without a will do not have any control over what happens to their property after their passing.

Ultimately, taking the time to draft a will and other estate planning documents can provide someone with peace of mind and offer their loved ones guidance and protection after their passing.