Intestate simply means if you die without a Will.

If you have a close relative die without leaving a will, you’ll be faced with some complexities, but you can get through them if you know the rules.

First, it’s important to know how an estate is distributed in the absence of a will. To start with, many assets aren’t passed by will, such as:

  • Life insurance proceeds.
  • Real estate, bank accounts and assets held in joint tenancy/community property with the right of survivorship.
  • Property held in a living trust.
  • IRAs, 401(k)s and retirement plans — assuming a beneficiary was named.
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts.
  • Stocks or other securities held in a transfer-on-death account.
  • Real estate or vehicles held with a transfer-on-death deed or title document.

Ohio State law provides a list of people eligible to fill the role of executor, of which, the surviving spouse is the first choice. Adult children, typically being next on the list, then followed by other family members. In order to be named an executor, you must be bonded by a private insurance company. Section 2109.09 sets forth the bond requirements of an Ohio Executor.

If you’ve been named as executor, you’ll follow the intestate laws for inheritance rules; spouses and blood relatives inherit, and unmarried partners, friends, and charities get nothing.

More specifically, a surviving spouse will receive the largest share while splitting the inheritance with any children. In the case where there are no children, the spouse often receives all the property.

However, there may be exceptions based on state law. More distant relatives will inherit only if there is no surviving spouse and no children. If no relatives can be found, the state will take the assets.

It’s important to note that all states have rules that bar certain people from inheriting, based on past actions. For example,
– someone who is found guilty of criminally causing the death does not profit from it
– a parent who abandoned a child or committed certain crimes against a child cannot inherit from that child

There are exceptions.

Separated couples: if a couple had separated prior to the death of their spouse, or if divorce proceedings had begun, the issue of whether the surviving member is still considered a surviving spouse may have to go before a court.

Common law marriages: The State of Ohio does not recognize cohabitation and/or domestic partnership as a legal marriage, and there is no longer any confusion about same-sex married couples, as their situation is exactly the same as any other married couple.

Children/Stepchildren/Foster children:
– Legally adopted children will inherit under normal circumstances.
– For stepchildren, it depends on the circumstances of the relationship.
– Foster children normally do not inherit.
– Adoption situations can further complicate things. In the case of underage children requiring a guardian, a judge will make that decision.

The bottom line? Working closely with an estate attorney can help greatly in these situations. Contact Chuck Bendig for a free case review.

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