What Happens When You Fail to Make an Estate Plan

Life is unpredictable, which is why we need to be prepared. If you pass away unexpectedly, you want your family to be taken care of. You want them to inherit all of your money, belongings, and overall estate, which is why it is important to go through estate planning before you run out of time.

To ensure your property goes where you want, you need to create a will, making sure to state everything and who shall inherit it. If you fail to do this and you pass away, the government will use the intestate succession laws in your state to determine who gets what.


Susan Gwinn knows the importance of estate planning, and can help you get your affairs in order before anything unanticipated happens to you. In Ohio, when you have no estate plan and pass away unexpectedly, the intestate succession law says that your closest living relative shall get your estate.

There is a lot that determines who is actually related, how they are related, and who will get your estate. Luckily, if you have any kind of relative, even great aunt and uncles, they will receive your estate before the government will take it.



Your relationships will affect who gets what. If you die, your spouse is still living, and you have a child together, your spouse will receive everything. However, if you die with a surviving spouse, and have a child who you had with someone else, your spouse will only receive a portion of your assets and the child will receive the rest.

Your spouse will generally inherit everything, if they are still living and the children you have are from the two of you and not a previous marriage. But if you have no spouse, your child, parents, or siblings will be the ones inheriting your estate.


Based on the laws of intestacy, for your children to inherit your estate Ohio must consider them to legally be your children. This may seem like a simple concept, but there are many things that can factor in that could change who is considered a legal child. Legally adopting a child will allow them to receive a share just as a biological child would, but if you have foster children or a stepchild, unless you legally adopt them, they will not automatically be given a share.


A child that is born after your death, but is still your biological child, will receive a share. But if your child is born when you are not married to their mother, then things can get a bit complicated. You must establish paternity under Ohio law. This can be done in many different ways, but is necessary if your child is to receive any inheritance.

You grandchildren are also in the running to receive inheritance if their parents, or your children, die before you do. Again, Ohio will find your closest living relative to receive your estate before the government gets it.

Be Proactive, Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

There are a lot more limitations and rules that go into how the state of Ohio will determine who gets your estate if you die with no estate plan. This is an intricate and thoughtful process that could take a lot longer than necessary. And what if you want to leave your things to someone other than a family member? It happens from time to time but it never will if you don’t plan your estate first.

Let Susan Gwinn help you with your estate planning, and be prepared for the unexpected. Susan Gwinn practices law in Southeastern Ohio, serving individuals throughout Athens County and beyond. Contact us today to get started.