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What happens if someone dies without an Ohio estate plan?

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Once someone reaches 18 years of age, they have the ability to create a will. Ohio allows any adults of sound mind to leave instructions regarding the distribution of their property and the care of their dependent family members if they die.

Despite having this potential authority, many Ohio residents fail to draft estate planning documents. Procrastination is a common issue. People simply assume that they have time in the future to establish an estate plan. Even if someone theoretically has decades left before they reach the average life expectancy, issues can arise at any time.

People develop cancer in their twenties or get into car crashes on the way to work. Those who procrastinate may die without a proper estate plan in place. What happens to those who die without a will?

Ohio law controls estates without wills

There are already state laws clearly describing what should happen to someone’s property if they die without an estate plan. Contrary to urban legend, someone’s property does not automatically become the property of the state of Ohio if they die without a will. However, that could potentially occur in scenarios where people have no immediate family.

Intestate succession laws describe what the probate courts should do with the assets belonging to people without an estate plan. The two first considerations are whether someone has a spouse and if they have any surviving children.

Spouses typically have the strongest inheritance rights. They can receive the entire estate if someone dies without children or if they are also the parent of any surviving children of the deceased. Children may inherit part of the estate if the surviving spouse is their stepparent. Children may be the main beneficiaries if someone dies with progeny but no spouse.

Parents, siblings and grandparents could all potentially inherit from an estate if someone dies without a spouse or children. It is only in the rare situation where the state cannot locate any surviving family members that someone’s property may eventually belong to the state itself.

People in a variety of circumstances may quickly come to realize that the laws in Ohio would not achieve their planned legacy. Those with complicated family circumstances, substantial assets or unique legacy wishes are among those who might benefit from the creation of an in-depth estate plan. Learning about the Ohio laws that apply during probate proceedings may help people find the motivation they need to finally sit down and create a written will.

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