Estate Plan Text Written on Paper

What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Beneficiary? 

Gregory, L. Williams, Jr., Esq., Partner. Jan. 6, 2023

Establishing an estate plan allows you to leave specific instructions about how your estate should be settled, assets distributed to beneficiaries, or disposed of upon your death. However, different issues often arise with estate administration when a person dies intestate – without a will or estate plan. An experienced Ohio probate attorney can enlighten you about the steps for settling the estate of a person who dies without a beneficiary or plan. 

As the premier attorney, I have the diligence and knowledge to advise and guide clients in estate administration and probate-related matters. I can fully explain Ohio's intestate succession rules to you and guide you through the probate proceedings from start to finish. My firm proudly serves clients across Columbus, Ohio, and surrounding communities throughout Central Ohio. 

Common Reasons There Is No Beneficiary  

 The following are some common reasons why a person may die without a beneficiary: 

  • The decedent (the person who passed) did not create a last will and testament. 

  • The beneficiary they named in their estate plan has died. 

  • The will created by the decedent is not valid. 

According to a 2022 Wills and Estate Planning Study by, about two-thirds (66.9%) of American adults do not have a will or estate plan. In Ohio, when a person dies without a will, beneficiary, or estate plan, the state's intestacy laws will determine who inherits their asset and property. Also, the decedent's estate and assets must pass through probate. Learn more about the Ohio probate process when you reach out to my office and arrange an initial consultation. 

Understanding the Probate Process 

Probate can be described as a court-supervised process that is often required to settle a decedent's final affairs and estate. The probate process involves the following: 

  • Gathering and evaluating the deceased person's assets and property 

  • Paying debts and taxes, and 

  • Distributing the remaining assets to rightful beneficiaries and heirs. 

However, when a person dies intestate, their estate and assets will be administered according to Ohio's intestate succession laws.  

Ohio's Intestate Succession Rules 

Ohio's intestate succession rules outline how to distribute a decedent's assets should the person die without a valid will. Here are some important provisions of the law: 

  • If the decedent dies with a spouse, the surviving spouse will inherit the entire estate. 

  • If the decedent dies with no spouse but there are children, the surviving children will divide the estate equally among themselves. 

  • If the decedent dies with no spouse and no children, the surviving parents will inherit the estate. 

  • If the deceased had no spouse, children, or parents, more distant relatives – such as nephews, aunts, and cousins – would inherit the estate. 

  • However, if the probate court is unable to locate any surviving family members, heirs, or relatives, the state of Ohio will "escheat" or inherit the entire estate. 

With intestate succession, the state of Ohio will determine who will inherit your asset. Therefore, it is important to establish an estate plan, will, or trust to make adequate provisions for your loved ones and have control over who inherits your accumulated assets and funds. 

Anti-Lapse Statutes if the Beneficiary Is Deceased  

According to Ohio Anti-Lapse Statute, when a will bequeaths a gift or asset to a class of people, and a member of the class predeceased the testator, a substitute gift will be made to the deceased class member's descendants. Effective from March 22, 2019, when a beneficiary dies before a testator, the surviving children of the beneficiary will be eligible to inherit their share of the estate. 

The Legal Guidance You Deserve  

When a person dies without an estate plan or beneficiary, their estate and properties must pass through costly and lengthy probate proceedings. In addition, Ohio's intestate succession laws will determine who inherits what, depending on the decedent's surviving family members. My team is poised and ready to guide individuals, families, fiduciaries, and administrators through the complexities of estate settlement and probate. 

In addition, I can help you understand the rules addressing intestate succession in Ohio and determine who gets to inherit your deceased loved one's assets. With my extensive legal knowledge, I can walk you through every legal procedure involved in probate and estate administration and help you navigate crucial decisions. Also, my reliable team will work intelligently with you and other loved ones to settle probate disputes amicably and swiftly. 

Contact us to schedule a simple case assessment with a trusted estate and probate lawyer. As a seasoned attorney, I can offer you the personalized legal counsel and advocacy you need to make intelligent decisions when going through such a tough period. My firm proudly serves clients across Columbus and Central Ohio.