Writing a will and other estate planning documents is something that everyone knows they should take care of eventually. Unfortunately, some people put it off too long, and end up passing away without ever having executed a valid will. If this happens, the courts follow a set procedure for distributing the deceased’s assets, which unfortunately may be different from what the deceased would have wanted.
The legal term for passing away without a validly executed will in place is “dying intestate.” If you die intestate, a court will have to assign an administrator for you. An administrator (also called an executor) is a person in charge of gathering your assets, paying your debts and taxes, and otherwise administering your estate.
The court will follow Ohio statutory law when deciding where your possessions should go. Ohio law lays out the order in which your loved ones will receive your assets, as well as what happens in a variety of circumstances.
The order of inheritance
If you pass away and leave a surviving spouse, but no children, then your spouse will get everything. Likewise, if you leave behind children but no spouse, the court will divide all of your assets among your children equally.
Even if you do leave behind both a spouse and children, your spouse will still receive everything, as long as all of your surviving children are also the children of your spouse. If you leave children that are not the children of your spouse, then things get a bit more complicated. The court will divide your assets among your spouse and children according to a statutorily established formula.
Finally, if you leave neither spouse nor child, then your assets will go first to your parents, then to your siblings or other relatives.
Life is full of unexpected accidents, and you never know when your time may come. It’s much better to take the time now to ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of according to your own wishes once you are no longer with them, rather than leaving it up to the court.