Life does not have a predetermined expiration date. When a loved one dies unexpectedly and without a will, the grief of those remaining face is compounded by having to deal with the probate process without a will in Ohio. When happens, the surviving family and friends need to know how to settle the estate without the guidance provided by a will.
Navigating the Probate Process Without a Will in Ohio
Making a will or managing the estate of a loved one requires understanding Ohio probate terms and laws. Probate is the legal process of winding up and distributing the estate of a person who has died. When the deceased leaves a valid will, the will dictates the distribution of assets in the estate. Some assets such as real estate, vehicles, or accounts that are jointly titled with another person may pass directly to the other named owner. These assets are said to pass "outside of probate." Assets that do not pass "outside of probate" in this manner must be distributed via the probate process.
But when the deceased did not execute a will-or if the will is determined to be invalid and unenforceable for some reason-the person is said to have died intestate. In those cases, Ohio law instructs the court how to choose someone to be the administrator of the estate and how to distribute estate assets.
The probate process is similar in cases with and without a will, but cases without a will must look to the Ohio Revised Code for instruction on how to ultimately distribute the estate. Specifically, the laws on intestate succession in Ohio dictate who inherits when the court lacks guidance from a valid will.
Ohio Probate without a Will
When the deceased did not leave a valid will, a loved one or family member wishing to begin the probate process can apply to open a case in the probate court. The probate court must then appoint a person to administer or manage the estate. A surviving loved one can apply to be the administrator, or the court may appoint a third party.
Once appointed, the administrator begins the process of winding down the estate-paying the debts of the estate, preparing and filing an estate tax return, and distributing the assets to those entitled to them.
Are You an Heir According to Ohio Probate Law?
A will usually instructs who is to receive each asset in the estate. When the deceased has died intestate, Ohio law sets out who will receive the estate assets. Specifically, Ohio Revised Code § 2105.06 prescribes who will inherit the estate assets based on the nature of the familial relationship with the deceased.
If a current spouse survives the deceased, the spouse inherits the entire estate. If the deceased is also survived by children (or their descendants) from someone other than the current spouse, then the current spouse receives the first $20,000 and, after deducting that amount, half of the remaining balance. The other half goes in equal shares to the children of the deceased.
If neither a current spouse nor children (or their descendants) survive the deceased, the assets go to the parents of the deceased. If the parents did not survive the deceased, then the siblings of the deceased receive equal shares of the estate assets.
Determining heirs in the probate process without a will in Ohio can be complicated and confusing. Those surviving the deceased may not fit neatly into the scenarios described above. Consulting an Ohio estate planning attorney to determine how to identify the rightful heirs and determine how the estate should be divided among them.
Don't Force Your Family into the Probate Process Without a Will in Ohio
Mourning the loss of a loved one is stressful. Navigating the probate process with no will in Ohio adds to that stress. Making sure that you have a thoughtfully outlined estate plan will help to ease a bit of that stress for the loved ones you leave behind.
A comprehensive estate plan should do the following:
- Identify and direct the distribution of your property and financial accounts;
- Address needs of minor children and any needs of loved ones with disabilities; and
- Specify any charitable giving you want to make upon your passing.
Estate plans covering these basic points commonly include documents such as a will, a revocable trust, an irrevocable trust, a living will, and a power of attorney. An experienced Ohio estate planning attorney can help you determine which documents are necessary to carry out your wishes.
Our Expert Ohio Estate Planning Attorney Can Make the Process Easier
If you are trying to navigate the probate process without a will in Ohio or want to prevent that burden on your family, an estate planning and probate attorney can be an invaluable asset. Anna M. Price at Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC can help develop a complete estate plan or walk with you through the intestate probate process. Anna concentrates her practice on estate planning in WV, KY, and OH, and she is ready to help you with all of your estate planning needs. Contact Anna by calling (304) 521-4571 or (866) 617-4736 toll-free or by using her online contact form to schedule a consultation.