If you die in Ohio without having made a Last Will and Testament, the law deems you to have died intestate. This means you created no will designating your heirs and what you wanted each of them to inherit from you. It also means that Ohio’s intestacy laws determine who gets your assets and in what proportion.
Section 2105 of the Ohio Code sets forth the laws of descent and distribution in Ohio when someone dies intestate. These laws apply regardless of what your wishes may have been or the verbal promises you may have made to your spouse, children or others.
Ohio’s intestacy laws go to great length to determine who gets what in virtually all intestate situations. For instance, your immediate family members inherit as follows:
- If your spouse survives you but none of your children do, (s)he inherits your entire probate estate.
- If your spouse survives you and you also have one or more surviving children of which (s)he represents the other parent, either by birth or adoption, (s)he likewise inherits your entire probate estate.
- If your spouse survives you and you also have one or more surviving children of which (s)he does not represent the other parent, (s)he inherits the first $20,000 of your probate estate plus half of its balance, with these surviving children inheriting the other half in equal shares.
- If your spouse does not survive you, but your children do, they inherit your probate estate in equal shares.
Unfortunately, without a valid Last Will and Testament, the State of Ohio does not know what other distributions you may have wanted. For instance, if you wish to leave a bequest to your church, your alma mater, your favorite charity, etc., you can only do this by means of your will.