“Everyone has a will. Either you prepared it, or your state did.” It’s true–if you have not prepared your own last will and testament, then a state’s statute of descent and distribution (here is Ohio’s) kicks in when you die. These state statutes prescribe who inherits your assets at your death. So yes, everyone is covered by either their own will, or your state’s laws, for distributing your assets when you die. The question becomes whether you want to decide who inherits your belongings, or whether you want the state to decide.
For example, in Ohio if you die intestate (with no will), here is how your assets are distributed. My summary below doesn’t cover every situation possible–see the link above to the statute if your situation in Ohio is not included in scenarios below. Note that children who are adopted are treated legally the same as biological children:
- Spouse is alive:
- all kids are yours and spouse’s: all to spouse
- no kids with spouse or anyone: all to spouse
- kids survive but none are with spouse: some to kids, some to spouse
- kids survive but some with spouse, some not: some to kids, some to spouse
- Spouse died before you:
- kids survive: to kids or their lineal descendants (your grandkids, great grandkids, and on)
- no kids or their lineal descendants survive: all to your parents or surviving parent
- no kids/lineal descendants, no parents survive: to whole or half blood brothers and sisters, or to any of their lineal descendants
- no kids/lineal descendants, no parents, no whole/half blood brothers and sisters or their lineal descendants survive: one-half to surviving maternal grandparents or survivor of them; one-half to paternal grandparents, or survivor of them
- none of above are surviving: to lineal descendants of grandparents (e.g., your grandparents’ children and their descendants)
- none of the above are surviving: to stepchildren, or to their lineal descendants.
- If none of the above are surviving when you die, then your assets escheat (go to) the state.
If absolutely no one survives you, do you want the state to get your assets when they could have been donated to a charity, or to benefit a school program, or sold to provide funds for a food pantry? Perhaps you have pets and would want your assets sold to provide for their care? Perhaps you have a dear friend who you would want to receive your assets? Designating something in a will accomplishes what you want to happen. Assets escheating to the state is not as uncommon as people think.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss what you wish to happen to your assets at your death.