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Intestacy: What happens when someone doesn't leave a will

Making an estate plan is something many people in Ohio procrastinate about, but that does not mean they never think about who should get their property and possessions when they die. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, a person who dies without a will is intestate. There are many differences in how the courts treat estates when there is a will versus when there is not.

Someone has to take care of the inventory of the estate, pay the debts and distribute the remaining assets. A person who makes a will gets to choose an executor to perform these duties. If no one is chosen (or if the person named by the decedent does not want to do it), the court chooses an administrator to fulfill the responsibilities.

The executor takes care of the duties based on instructions in the will, which can be very specific according to the decedent's wishes. Because an administrator does not have this to go by, the rules of the probate court apply, instead. While the inventory and debts are likely to require the same process either way, when it comes to inheritance, things could be very different.

The Ohio Revised Code states that the Statute of descent and distribution applies in intestacy. A surviving spouse receives first consideration and inherits everything if all other descendants are his or her own children and grandchildren. If there is no spouse, then the children would have the inheritance divided equally among them. When a child has died and has no children of his or her own, that amount is divided among the other children. If the deceased child does have children, his or her portion would be divided equally among them. 

However, if the person who dies has children outside of the relationship with the surviving spouse, $20,000 and half of the remaining balance goes to him or her. The remainder is divided among the children. If a child is deceased, that portion of the inheritance would be divided among his or her children. It becomes more complex when one or more of the children, but not all of them, are from the relationship with the surviving spouse. Other circumstances may also apply, depending on the family. 

 

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