It is a common excuse, especially among younger people and those who do not think of themselves as wealthy: I have not gotten around to creating a will and estate plan because I do not think I need one. I’m in good health, and besides, I do not have a large or complex collection of assets to pass on yet. Maybe I’ll get around to it in a few years.
What if someone dies without a will?
While it is understandable to think that way, it is also highly risky. Without a valid will in place when you die, there is no way for your final wishes to be honored. Just telling your spouse or children what you want to be done with your savings, real estate and other valuables is not enough. It is tough to convince a probate judge to accept anything other than a properly written and executed will as the decedent’s final wishes.
When someone in Ohio dies without a valid will, according to the law she has died “intestate.” This means that the state’s intestacy law will decide how the deceased’s assets are distributed. This, in turn, depends on which family members survive the deceased. For example:
- If the deceased is survived by her children and no spouse, the children receive the entire estate
- If the deceased is survived by her spouse and children born to both of them, the spouse inherits the entire estate
- If the deceased is survived by her spouse and a child born to the deceased and someone other than the spouse, the spouse inherits up to $20,000 of the estate, plus half of the remainder. The child and their descendants inherit the other half.
Without a will, you have no say in how your assets get divided up. An estate plan gives you control over that, along with how medical decisions will be made on your behalf if you are ever incapacitated, and who will handle your estate after you are gone. With an attorney’s help, setting up an estate plan is a relatively straightforward and quick process.