When you die intestate, which means without a will, the state law dictates the distribution of your property. For this reason, it is a good idea for everyone to have an estate plan in place because it lets control remain with you.
The Legislative Commission notes that Ohio law says your property goes to your next of kin. The next of kin is also defined by the state.
If you have a spouse, he or she will be your next of kin. The law considers your relationship based on legal status. So, even if you are separated or not living as husband and wife, as long as you still have a legally valid marriage, the state considers your spouse your next of kin for estate purposes. Again, this is why having a will is essential. It allows you to override this next of kin rule.
If you have children but they are not with your spouse or you do not have a spouse, then they also will be your next of kin. The court will distribute your estate equally between them. If you have a spouse who is not their parent, then the court would divide things between your kids and spouse.
When you do not have a spouse or children, the law considers your parents your next of kin and they will receive all of your assets. If your parents are also deceased, then your siblings are next in line.
Some situations can get incredibly complex if you do not have a spouse, children, parents or siblings who are living and able to take your assets. The court then begins looking for someone who is a close biological relative to become your next of kin. This can take time and could be difficult if you have a situation where you had someone else you wanted your estate to go to.
The bottom line is that having an estate plan will save you and your loved ones a lot of time and stress. It allows you to ensure that next of kin laws do not cause issues after your death.