Ohio Estate Inheritance Laws

By Teo Spengler

When a person dies, the property she owns must be transferred to others. If she leaves a valid will, the property passes to the persons named as beneficiaries in the will. If she dies without a will -- termed intestate -- her property passes to close family members according to the order set out in a state's intestate statutes. Ohio's inheritance laws are found under Title 21 of the state codes.

Making a Will in Ohio

Written Will

Under Ohio law, any person who is at least 18 years old can make a will. The person must be "under sound mind or memory," which means that she must be competent mentally.

Some states permit a resident to make any of several types of wills. In Ohio, the only will you can make in standard situations is the formal, written will. It can be handwritten, typed or printed, but must be signed by the person making the will, called the testator, in the presence of two witnesses, also over the age of 18 years old. The witnesses must also sign the will, representing that they saw the testator sign it.

Tip

Be sure not to choose persons to witness your will who are also named as beneficiaries under the will. According to the Ohio code, any bequests to the witnesses are voided by the court. This rule requiring disinterested witnesses is because the witnesses may be required to testify to the court about whether you were competent when you signed the will.

Oral Will

The only other type of will you can make in Ohio is an oral will. If you are on your deathbed, you can tell two disinterested witnesses the names of those you want to inherit your property. If those witnesses put the terms of the oral will into writing within 10 days of the date they were spoken, signing under oath that you spoke them and were competent at the time, the oral will may be valid under Ohio law.

Revoking a Will in Ohio

It is easier to revoke a will in Ohio than to make one. No witnesses are required. All you have to do is to tear it up or destroy it intentionally, or have someone else do it in your presence.

You can also revoke a will in Ohio by making another will or attaching an amendment to the will, termed a codicil, that nullifies the terms of the first will. Any bequests made to a spouse in your will are annulled if you later divorce or legally separate from him unless the will is made after the divorce or separation.

Dying Intestate In Ohio

If you die without a will in Ohio, your "next of kin" inherits your property. The Ohio intestate statutes define exactly what next of kin means in this case.

If you don't leave a surviving spouse, your property is given in equal shares to your children. If a child predeceases you, his share is divided among his children. If a predeceased child has no children, his share is divided among his siblings in equal parts.

If you leave a spouse but no children or grandchildren, your spouse inherits the entire estate.

If you leave a surviving spouse and children, all of whom are also children of the surviving spouse, the spouse takes all of the property in your estate. If there is a surviving child who is not the natural or adopted child of the surviving spouse, the estate is divided between the spouse gets the first $20,000, then the remainder of the estate is split between the child and the surviving spouse.

The statutes spell out in detail the rules for inheritance in different possible scenarios, including if you leave several children some of whom are not the children of your surviving spouse, if you have neither surviving spouse nor children. Parents and siblings are essentially next in line in Ohio to inherit if you die intestate.

About the Author

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.

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