If you die without a will in Ohio, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state "intestate succession" laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Ohio.
Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.
Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here's a quick overview:
|If you die with:||here's what happens:|
|children but no spouse||children inherit everything|
|spouse but no descendants or parents||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and descendants from you and that spouse||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and one child (or descendants of that child) from you and someone other than that spouse||spouse inherits the first $20,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance
your descendants inherit everything else
|spouse and more than one one child or descendants of those children||if the spouse is the natural or adoptive parent of at least one child, the spouse inherits the first $60,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/3 of the balance if the spouse is not the natural or adoptive parent any of the children, the spouse inherits the first $20,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/3 of the balance
descendants inherit everything else
|parents but no spouse or descendants||parents inherit everything|
|siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents||siblings inherit everything|
In Ohio, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don't, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property. If you do, they and your spouse will share your intestate property as follows:
If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse. Your surviving spouse inherits all of your intestate property.
If you die with one child (or descendants of that child) from you and someone other than your surviving spouse. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $20,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.
Example: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett owns a house in joint tenancy with Jed, plus $200,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if Barrett had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed inherits the house outright and $110,000 worth of Barrett's property -- that is, $20,000 plus $90,000 (half of the $180,000 balance). Barrett's daughter inherits the remaining $90,000 share of Barrett's property.
If you die with more than one child or descendants of those children. If the surviving spouse is the natural or adoptive parent of at least one child, the spouse inherits the first $60,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/3 of the balance. If the spouse is not the natural or adoptive parent any of the children, the spouse inherits the first $20,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/3 of the balance.
Example: Bill is married to Karen, and they have two grown children. Bill also has a son from a previous marriage. Bill and Karen own a large bank account in joint tenancy, and Bill took out a life insurance policy naming Karen as the beneficiary. When Bill dies, Karen receives the life insurance policy proceeds and inherits the bank account outright. Bill also owns $390,000 worth of property that would have passed under a will, so Karen inherits $170,000 worth of that property -- that is, $60,000 plus $110,000 of the remaining $330,000. The three children split the remaining $220,000 share of Bill's intestate property.
If you die without a will in Ohio, your children will receive an "intestate share" of your property. The size of each child's share depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. (See the table above.)
For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Ohio must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it's not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.
This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions, get help from an experienced attorney.
If you die without a will and don't have any family, your property will "escheat" into the state's coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won't go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, great uncles or aunts, nieces or nephews, cousins of any degree, or the descendants of a spouse who dies before you do. (See Ohio Rev. Code § 2105.06.)
Here are a few other things to know about Ohio intestacy laws.
To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled When There is No Will.
You can find Ohio's intestate succession law here: Ohio Rev. Code § § 2105.01 to 2015.39.
For more about estate planning, go to the Wills, Trusts & Probate section of Nolo.com.