Ohio Spouse Inheritance Law

By Jim Thomas

Ohio inheritance laws govern distributions made to a husband or wife when their spouse dies and are more than a little complex. Unfortunately, revisions by the Ohio legislature in 2012 didn't help much. As Cleveland attorney and estate planner Kevin Purcell notes, the laws are a "labyrinth of arbitrary rules, a majority of which served no apparent public policy." When a spouse dies and leaves a will excluding the surviving spouse, she may still claim part of the estate. However, when a spouse dies intestate, or without a will, the situation becomes more complicated.

Rights Under a Will

In Ohio, if your deceased spouse leaves a will, the terms of the will usually govern the amount of inheritance you and other beneficiaries receive. However, if a deceased spouse leaves little or nothing to his surviving spouse in his will, she is protected by Ohio Revised Code § 2106.01, and may claim as much as 50 percent of her deceased spouse's estate, known as her "elective share," depending upon the number of children produced by the couple.

Intestate and No Children or Natural Children

As you might expect, when a couple has no children and the deceased spouse doesn't leave a will, all remaining assets left in the estate, after debts and taxes are paid, go to the surviving spouse. If a couple had one or more children together, either natural or legally adopted, all the remaining assets from the estate go to the surviving spouse.

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Intestate and Natural and Non-Natural Children

If a deceased spouse had only one child and that child was with someone other than the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse never adopted the child -- perhaps because the deceased spouse was previously married when the child was born -- the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $20,000 of the estate, plus 50 percent of the estate's remaining balance. The remaining 50 percent of the estate goes to the child. If a deceased spouse had more than one child, the surviving spouse receives the first $60,000 of the estate if she is the natural or adoptive parent of one, but not all, of the children. Alternatively, she can only claim the first $20,000 plus one-third of the estate if she is not the natural or adoptive parent of any of the children. The remainder of the estate goes to the decedent's children in equal shares.


If your spouse dies intestate, you can elect to receive all of your late spouse's share in the marital residence. Living expenses of either $25,000 or $40,000 and free use of the family home for one year may also be available to a surviving spouse, in some circumstances. However, to simplify matters and ensure the wishes of both you and your late spouse are carried out upon death, it is best if you both write a will. Without a will, the court is bound by Ohio's laws of intestate succession, which may or may not be in accordance with how either of you want your estate distributed upon your death.

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Dying Without a Will in the State of Utah


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The Inheritance Hierarchy Without a Will in New York State

A person who dies without leaving a will is said to have died “intestate.” New York courts distribute intestate property according to a statutory scheme of succession and these laws apply only to property located in the state of New York. Laws of other states may apply to real property located outside of New York, even if the decedent had been a legal resident of the state. The intent of New York's intestate succession law is to distribute the estate in the manner in which the decedent likely would have had she left a will; the statutory scheme distributes the decedent's property to the closest surviving relatives first.

Laws on Receiving an Inheritance

The general principle of inheritance law is that the maker of a will, known as the testator, is entitled to distribute his property as he sees fit once the estate's debts are paid. Exceptions exist to this principle, however. If a person dies without a will, his property will be distributed according to state law. Under certain circumstances, the estate may be taxed by both federal and state authorities.

In Texas What Will Happen to My House if I Die Without a Will?

According to the law firm of Ford and Mathiason, under no circumstance will your home go to the state or to a stranger if you die intestate, or without a will. Texas statutes lay out a defined hierarchy for the inheritance of real property. It is extremely involved, however, so it may be a good idea to either make a will or consult with an attorney to make sure you correctly understand the order of succession for inheritance.

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