Does Ohio Allow Beneficiaries to Disclaim Inheritances?

By Beverly Bird

The law doesn’t force anyone to accept an inheritance, in Ohio or elsewhere. However, you can’t simply shake your head and walk away if you don’t want a bequest left to you by someone who has died. You must follow certain procedures to legally disclaim it, and you should read the decedent’s will first to determine what happens to your inheritance if you don’t accept it. It might end up going to an individual you'd prefer not to receive it.

Legal Procedure

Ohio requires that you disclaim your inheritance in writing. You must do so before the executor settles the estate. Because Ohio has an estate tax, which the executor must pay before closing the estate, this might take 15 months or more. Generally, you would file your written disclaimer in the probate division of Ohio’s Court of Common Pleas and provide a copy to the estate’s executor. If you’re disclaiming a real estate inheritance, you must also file a copy with the recorder of the county where the property is located.

Distribution of Disclaimed Property

A decedent’s will usually specifies what becomes of an inheritance you don’t wish to accept. For example, if a lawyer drafted the will, it probably includes language to the effect that your bequest will pass to someone else if you die before the decedent. Ohio law treats a disclaimed inheritance as though you had predeceased the testator -- the decedent who left the will. Your inheritance would pass back to the estate and ultimately go to the person or persons the decedent named. If the will doesn’t contain such provisions, your bequest goes to the first person in line to inherit under Ohio’s intestacy succession laws. Ohio law doesn’t give you the right to say who should receive your inheritance in your place.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Intestate Succession

When someone dies without a will in Ohio, his property passes to his closest relatives in an order called intestate succession. The law is complicated, but distribution of the estate generally depends on whether the decedent left a surviving spouse and children, and whether those children are also the children of his surviving spouse. His spouse and children are always first in line to inherit, if they're living. Therefore, your disclaimed bequest would go to these individuals if the will doesn't provide for someone else to receive it. If the decedent died without a will, your disclaimed inheritance would pass to the next person in line to inherit after you.


You do not have the right to "undo" your disclaimer. Ohio law doesn’t permit you to reserve that right in case you change your mind, and after the estate is settled, distribution of your bequest to another heir is final. You lose your right to disclaim your bequest if you accept any portion of it. For example, you can’t accept interest generated by an investment account, then disclaim the account.


If you’re not comfortable with what happens to your bequest after you disclaim it, either because of the terms of the decedent’s will or because of Ohio’s line of intestate succession, you have the right to accept it and give it to whomever you choose. For example, you may have children, but the will does not specifically leave your inheritance to them if you disclaim it, so it would go to someone else. You can take the inheritance and set it aside in trust for your children. However, there may be tax ramifications, so speak to a financial advisor first.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
What Happens When Someone Refuses to Accept Their Inheritance?


Related articles

Laws Regarding Renouncing Inheritance in Louisiana

Louisiana law permits you to fully renounce any inheritance you are entitled to receive. You also have the option of renouncing a portion of the inheritance. A renunciation of your inheritance waives any claim or interest you would otherwise have in the inheritance. The party to whom you should address your renunciation depends upon the terms of the will in which you are a named beneficiary or, in the absence of a will, in accordance with the inheritance laws of the state of Louisiana.

California Law Concerning Last Wills When a Beneficiary Is Deceased

In some cases, a will may leave assets to someone who is no longer living. If this occurs, this provision in the will is said to have "lapsed." Under California law, there is a specific statute that deals with this. Section 21110 of the Probate Code is designed to mirror what the testator would probably have intended if he had foreseen the event when he made the will.

A Last Will & Testament in Illinois

To make a last will and testament in Illinois, you must be at least 18 years of age or be emancipated from your parents by marriage or court order. Your will must be in writing, signed by you and witnessed by two people. Someone may sign your name for you if you are unable to do so, but that person cannot be one of your witnesses. Illinois accepts self-proved wills that might be eligible for simplified probate. A self-proved will is one with an attached notarized statement by you and your witnesses that the will is authentic.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

Texas Estate Laws on Disclaiming an Inheritance

Some things in life – such as paying taxes – are unavoidable. Accepting an inheritance isn't one of these things. Under ...

Divorce & Inheritance Law

Whether you’re on the receiving end or the giving end of an inheritance, divorce can throw a monkey wrench into your ...

California Probate Law & Next in Line Inheritance

If you die intestate in California – without leaving a will – probate law meets community property law. The state steps ...

Virginia Inheritance Law for Siblings

If your brother or sister dies owning property in Virginia, your sibling’s will and Virginia law determine whether you ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED