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In recent years, greater divorce rates among older adults means that more elderly Ohio residents will need to think about estate planning without a spouse. Indeed, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that more than 50 percent of American adults are single. What should single people know when it comes to estate planning in Ohio?

Specific Concerns for Singles

According to a recent article in Dow Jones Business News, unique estate planning issues exist for singles. Whether you’re divorced, widowed, or never married, it’s important to have a clear idea about how your property will be distributed upon death. And, most significantly, you should know how Ohio law deals with property of decedents when that person has no surviving spouse and no surviving children.

For example, if you don’t have a will, who will inherit your property? Who will make decisions for you about health care if you’re unable to make those decisions yourself? And if you’re divorced, do you need to worry about an ex-spouse being listed as a beneficiary on a retirement account?

About 53 percent of women aged 65 and older are single, and approximate 26 percent of men in the same age group are single. If any of those persons who are Ohio residents die without a will, their property will be distributed according to the Statute of Descent and Distribution. This statute applies to all persons who die intestate (in other words, without a will), but there are particular implications for single Ohioans who don’t have any obvious heirs.

Importance of Drafting a Will

In general, if you die without a will in Ohio, the Statute of Descent and Distribution will determine how your property is distributed. If you’re married and/or have children and you die without a will, the statute says that your property distribution will work like this:

  •      For decedents who are survived by a spouse but have no surviving children (or any descendants of deceased children), the entirety of the decedent’s property will be distributed to the surviving spouse.
  •      For decedents who have a surviving spouse and one or more surviving children (or descendants of deceased children), the entirety of the property will be distributed to the spouse as long as the surviving children are also the children of the surviving spouse.
  •      In situations where the decedent has a surviving spouse and one or more surviving children who are not children of the surviving spouse, Ohio law stipulates that the surviving spouse will receive a specific amount from the estate with other portions going to the surviving children or their descendants. These laws can be complicated, and it’s important to discuss your particular situation with an Akron estate planning attorney.
  •      For decedents who have no surviving spouse but who do have surviving children (or their descendants), each child receives an equal share from the estate.

Many single Ohio residents who are aged 65 and older are divorced or widowed, and a number of those residents do have surviving children who would inherit their estate. But what about singles who have no surviving children, either? Under Ohio law, if a decedent has no surviving spouse or children, the entire estate will be distributed to the decedent’s parents, or, if the parents are no longer living, in equal shares to siblings and their descendants.

Why is this a significant issue? Many adults have specific plans for their assets and possessions, and often those plans don’t include surviving parents or siblings. If you’re single and you’re currently thinking about estate planning, it’s essential to draft a will so that your property is distributed exactly as you’d like it to be.

Contact an Akron Estate Planning Lawyer

In addition to understanding Ohio laws on descent and distribution, it’s also important to understand the specific implications for singles when it comes to choosing your decision makers and your account beneficiaries.

If you’re single and have questions about estate planning, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced Youngstown estate planning attorney. Contact the Law Office of John C. Grundy today.