What Happens if you Die Without a Will?

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There are 4 significant effects of dying without a will.

  1. The state will decide who inherits your estate. In Ohio, your assets will go to your next of kin as set out in the law of descent and distribution.It is worthwhile to note that, even if you die intestate, property subject to a beneficiary designation will go to the person whom you have designated in such provision, in spite of what is otherwise provided under Ohio law. Below is a summary of Ohio’s statute of descent and distribution.
  • If you die with no children and you are married, your spouse is entitled to everything.
  • If you die with no spouse, and you have children, your children are entitled to everything, equally                           between them.
  • If you die with both children and a spouse living, and your children are shared with your spouse, your                   spouse is entitled to everything.
  • If you die with both children and a spouse living, and your children are not shared with your spouse (you             remarried for example), then the division gets a little complicated. If you have one child, and it is not the child of your spouse, then your spouse is entitled to $20,000 of the estate, plus one-half of what is left, with the remaining half to the child or the child’s descendants. If you have more than one child, and your spouse is the parent at least one of them, then your spouse is entitled to $60,000, plus one-third of what is left, with the remaining amount going to the children in equal shares. If you have multiple surviving children, and your spouse is parent to none of them, then your spouse is entitled to $20,000, plus one-third of what is left, with the remaining two-thirds going to the children in equal shares.
  • If you die with no spouse and no children, then the following rules apply: If you have surviving parents, then they take in equal shares. If you no longer have a living parent, then your siblings take in equal shares. If you have no surviving parents or siblings, then your grandparents take in equal shares. If you have no surviving parents, siblings, or grandparents, then your “next of kin” are entitled to your estate.  These include your more distant relations, such as cousins. If no surviving relations of yours can be determined, then your stepchildren, if you have any, will take in equal shares.  If you have no surviving relatives or stepchildren, then your property will go to the state.
  1. The Court will choose who will administer your estate. In a will, you are able to choose an executor, the individual who will administer your estate, ie. pay the estate expenses and creditor claims, file taxes, distribute assets, etc. If you don’t have a will, the court will appoint an administrator to do the job. The court appointed administrator may or may not be your first choice. An administrator also has the extra burden of posting a bond and going through additional procedural headaches which will cause your estate additional money.
  1. The Court will likely require a trust for an inheritance left to a minor child. In a Will, you have the opportunity to name a custodian to manage any funds left to a minor child. Without the named custodian in your will, the court will likely require a trust to be established for the minor child and overseen by the court. Such a trust creates additional cost and headache for your family.
  1. The Court will choose a guardian for your minor child. In a Will, you have the opportunity to choose a guardian for your minor child. Without the designation, the Court will make the choice for you, and it may not be your preferred candidate.

For more information for Will and Estate Planning, contact a Cleveland Estate Planning Lawyer.