Intestate Succession

Intestate succession or intestacy refers to the process a probate court goes through to administer the estate of a decedent who has died without executing a valid will. This occurs when an individual dies without writing a will or the will they have is deemed invalid. When this happens, the probate court will administer the estate according to state statute.




Estate Administrator

When an individual dies intestate, the probate court appoints an administrator of the estate to report to the court and take care of the decedent’s financial affairs. The probate court will usually appoint the surviving spouse or another next of kin of the decedent. The administrator must also be an Ohio resident. Before the court officially names the administrator, the appointed person must accept their duties and sign an acknowledgment of the duties they must complete.


An estate administrator must complete an inventory and appraisal of the decedent’s assets; collect and hold the assets until all of the decedent’s taxes and debts have been paid; pay off any of the decedent’s taxes and debts out of the decedent’s assets; and then distribute the remaining assets to the heirs.




Property Distribution

In intestacy administration, the probate court will determine what happens to your property according to state statute. Your property will then be distributed to your heirs according to law, with no regard to your relationships with your family or non-family members. In intestate property distribution, the law assumes that you want all of your property to be devised to your surviving family. If you have no surviving family, your estate will “escheat” and all of your property will pass unto the state. If you want a say in how your property passes at death, you will need to create a valid will or trust.




Heirs Under Intestacy

Heirs are the family members who receive your property when you die without a will, as determined by state statute. Under Ohio Statute, the order of priority is as follows:


•If there is no surviving spouse, then to the surviving children of the intestate or their lineal descendants;

•If there is a surviving spouse and surviving children of the intestate, and all of the decedent’s surviving children are also children of the spouse, then the whole to the surviving spouse;

•If there is a surviving spouse and surviving children of the intestate, and one or more of the children are not the natural or adoptive children of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse gets the first $20,000 plus half of the estate, and the remainder goes to the children of the decedent;

•If there are no children, the whole to the surviving spouse;

•If there are no children and no surviving spouse, the whole to the parents of the intestate equally;

•If there are no children, no surviving spouse, and no surviving parent, then to the siblings of the intestate

This is just a sampling of the order of priority for the intestate succession. If you have any questions about how Ohio intestate statute may affect you or a loved one’s estate, please contact an attorney today. For more information about intestacy and probate, visit the Ohio Bar Association or read our Probate Articles.

Authored by: Mary E. Zoldak




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