Don’t Let the State Write Your Will: Why You Need an Estate Planning Attorney

Intestate succession laws

When we think about death, estate planning usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But creating an estate plan is a vital step for anyone who wants to ensure their wishes are followed after they’re gone.

In Ohio, if you die without a will, the state steps in and distributes your assets according to intestate succession laws. This can lead to unintended consequences, especially for families with unique circumstances.

What is intestate succession?

Intestate succession dictates how the probate court distributes your property if you die without a will. Here’s a simplified breakdown of who inherits under Ohio law:

  • Surviving spouse: If you’re married and have no children, your spouse inherits everything. If you have children from a previous relationship, they will inherit alongside your spouse. If your children are all mutual to you and your spouse, then your spouse will inherit everything.
  • Children: If you have children but no spouse, they inherit your estate equally.
  • No spouse or children: Things get more complex if you don’t have a spouse or kids. The estate may go to parents, siblings or even extended family, depending on who survives you.

The pitfalls of intestacy

While intestate succession provides a framework, it may not reflect your wishes and can lead to several problems:

  • One size doesn’t fit all: Intestate succession laws are impersonal and inflexible. They don’t consider your specific desires. You may want to leave something to a friend, charity or a specific child more than others. A will allows you to personalize your wishes and distribute your assets according to your values.
  • Blended families: Ohio’s laws may not be ideal for blended families. Intestacy can lead to confusion and conflict over inheritance, especially if you have children from a previous relationship. A will ensures your spouse and children from previous relationships are provided for as you see fit, minimizing the potential for disputes.
  • Minor children: If you have minor children, a will allows you to appoint a guardian to care for them after you’re gone. Intestacy leaves this decision to the court, which can be a lengthy and stressful process for your loved ones during a difficult time. You can also use your will to establish a testamentary trust, which can provide financial security for your children until they reach adulthood.
  • Familial conflict: A well-drafted will reduces the chances of disputes among family members over your assets. Intestacy laws can be complex and leave room for interpretation, potentially leading to legal battles that can erode family relationships and devour your estate’s value in attorney fees. A clear and concise will minimizes ambiguity and ensures your wishes are known.

An estate planning attorney can guide you through the process of creating a will that reflects your wishes and safeguards your legacy.  Contact a Dworken & Bernstein estate planning attorney today to create a will that protects you and your loved ones.

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