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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 114042
Experience:  Experienced in Trust and Succession Law, including Louisiana Laws
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My sisters husband recently died. Prior to their marriage

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My sister's husband recently died. Prior to their marriage he had named his mother as the beneficiary for his IRA, state pension plan, and one insurance policy. Apparently he never updated this after they married. He died without a will.

Does she have any legal right to these accounts? They reside in Ohio.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

I am sorry to hear that he never updated the beneficiary status. This means that if she died before him, all of the proceeds of those accounts go into his estate and probate needs to be conducted to distribute the assets of his estate to the heirs, which would include his surviving spouse (your sister) and also to his children/descendants.

Ohio law on distribution of an intestate (without a will) estate are as follows so you can tell your sister how much she is entitled to as surviving spouse:

  • If a decedent is survived by a spouse and no surviving children or descendants of deceased children, the entire estate goes to the spouse.
  • If a decedent is survived by a spouse and one or more children or their descendants, and if all the children who survive or who have descendants are also the children of the surviving spouse, the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse.
  • If a decedent is survived by a spouse and one child or the child’s descendants and if the surviving spouse is not the natural or adoptive parent of the child, the spouse receives the first $20,000 from the estate plus one-half the remainder of the estate. The balance of the estate passes to the child or, if the child is deceased, to the child’s descendants.
  • If a decedent is survived by a spouse and more than one child or their descendants, the spouse receives the first $60,000 if the spouse is the natural or adoptive parent of one, but not all of the children, or the first $20,000 if the spouse is not the natural or adoptive parent of any of the children. The spouse receives one-third of the balance of the estate and the children will receive two-thirds of the balance of the estate in equal shares. Descendants of a deceased child divide that child’s equal share.


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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
His mother is telling her that the distribution laws do not apply to his IRA and his pension because he named his mother as the beneficiary. So I'm still unclear of whether or not she's entitled to this. They have two young children together.

I was always under the understanding that the surving spouse always receives pension funds, regardless of who the deceased has listed as beneficiary, unless the surving spouse has waived this right.

Thank you for your response.

If the mother outlived her son and was named as beneficiary and no change was made, I am afraid those accounts where she was named beneficiary do go to the mother as named beneficiary. The information above presumed the mother died before the son.

I am afraid that the surviving spouse does not always get the retirement funds where the deceased named a beneficiary and the deceased would have had to have changed the beneficiary status in this type of situation. If the spouse was named as a beneficiary, the spouse would have to sign waiving the right or if they were married at the time he designated a beneficiary other than his spouse, the spouse would have to have waived their rights. However, if the beneficiary designation was made prior to marriage and was not changed I am afraid the mother would remain beneficiary.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Ok... The mother indicated that she intends to divide the money equally amongst all of his siblings and her grandchildren. Fortunately, most of them have told her that they don't want the money because they know that their brother never, ever would have intentionally done something to harm the well being of his young children. Hopefully as they work through their grief his mother will do what is right.
Thank you for your update.

The mother can divide the money as she sees fit and perhaps she was aware of his wishes and has always intended to do the right thing and perhaps the siblings can convince her to do so.

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