Surviving Spouse Rights in Ohio

Few life transitions are more difficult than the loss of a beloved spouse. While they are grieving a life partner, a widow or widower also has to deal with their loved one’s estate, including figuring out what their own rights are to the estate. What are the rights of the surviving spouse in Ohio?

The good news for a widowed spouse is that, regardless of whether the deceased had a will, they have certain rights to the estate. The bad news is it can be challenging to figure out how to exercise those rights. An experienced probate attorney can make the process much easier.

Understanding Surviving Spouse Rights in Ohio

Here are some of the many provisions in Ohio law designed to protect the rights of a surviving spouse after a husband or wife’s death.

Elective Share

If the spouse died with a valid will, ordinarily, the surviving spouse would inherit according to the terms of the will. But what happens if the surviving spouse wants more than what they were left in the will? By electing to take against the will, they may be able to receive a different percentage of the estate.

A surviving spouse is entitled to ⅓ of the deceased spouse’s estate, if there are at least two of the deceased spouse’s children or their lineal descendants (children or grandchildren) who survive. If there are fewer than two children or lineal descendants, the surviving spouse may be entitled to ½ of the net estate. An election by a surviving spouse must be made no later than five months after the initial appointment of an executor or administrator of the estate.

Failure to make a timely election means it is conclusively presumed that the surviving spouse intends to take under the will, so if you think you might want to elect against the will, get the help of a probate attorney as soon as possible.

Spousal Share of Intestate Estate

If the deceased died intestate (without a will), the surviving spouse is automatically entitled to some or all of the estate; under Ohio law, the portion depends on whether the deceased had children and whether those children are also children of the surviving spouse.

If there are no surviving children of the deceased or lineal descendants, the surviving spouse is entitled to the whole estate. If there are children, the spouse may be entitled to a certain sum of money plus one-third or one-half of the estate.

Election to Receive Mansion House

As part of their share of an intestate estate, a surviving spouse may elect to receive their deceased spouse’s entire interest in the mansion house. Even if the surviving spouse does not make this election, he or she may have the right to remain in the house for one year after the spouse’s date of death.

Lien on Real Property

Not every estate is liquid enough to pay a surviving spouse their share in cash. If the deceased died without a will and the estate doesn’t contain enough money to pay the surviving spouse their share, they can put a lien or “charge” on any real property owned by the estate. When the property is sold, the lien ensures that the surviving spouse receives payment. Perfecting a lien can be tricky for those who are not familiar with the process; it is best to have an attorney’s help with this.

Allowance for Support

Often, a surviving spouse cannot simply wait for the estate to be settled and assets to be distributed; they may need funds to live off of more immediately. A widow or widower may be entitled to up to $40,000 as an allowance for support. If there are minor children of the deceased, the Probate Court will apportion this amount between the surviving spouse and the minor children

Surviving Spouse’s Right to Automobiles and Watercraft

In Ohio, the surviving spouse of a deceased person may be entitled to up to two automobiles owned by the deceased with a combined value of up to $65,000, so long as those automobiles were not specifically bequeathed to someone else in the decedent’s estate plan. Claiming one or more automobiles from the estate does not reduce the surviving spouse’s allowance for support.

In addition, the surviving spouse may also be entitled to claim one watercraft and one outboard motor from the estate of the deceased. As with automobiles, these items must not have been specifically left to another person or people. It’s a good idea to consult an experienced Ohio probate attorney if you have questions about surviving spouse rights in Ohio.

How an Attorney Can Help with Ohio Rights of a Surviving Spouse

Probate matters can be confusing at the best of times; they can be downright overwhelming when you are mourning your life partner. An attorney can help you understand how Ohio law applies to your situation, and explain your rights as a surviving spouse.

A probate attorney can also help you to make any appropriate elections in a timely fashion, so you don’t miss out on any of the assets to which you are entitled. If you are grieving the loss of a spouse, you have our sincere condolences. We would be glad to assist you in navigating your loved one’s estate. Contact Gudorf Law Group to schedule a consultation.