Ohio’s Designated Heir Statute

Ohio has a unique statute referred to as the designated heir statute.  This statute allows a person of sound mind to give a designated person the status of “a child born in lawful wedlock.”

What Is Ohio’s Designated Heir Statute?

Ohio’s designated heir statute is found at Ohio Revised Code § 2105.15 and states:

A person of sound mind and memory may appear before the probate judge of the person’s county and in the presence of the judge and two disinterested persons of that person’s acquaintance, file a written declaration declaring that, as the person’s free and voluntary act, the person did designate and appoint another, stating the name and place of residence of the other person specifically, to stand toward the person in the relation of an heir at law in the event of the person’s death. The declaration shall be attested by the two disinterested persons and subscribed by the declarant. If satisfied that the declarant is of sound mind and memory and free from restraint, the judge shall enter that fact upon the judge’s journal and make a complete record of the proceedings. From then on the person designated will stand in the same relation, for all purposes, to the declarant as the person designated could if a child born in lawful wedlock. The rules of inheritance will be the same between the person designated and the relations by blood of the declarant, as if so born. A certified copy of the record will be prima-facie evidence of the fact stated in the record, and conclusive evidence, unless impeached for actual fraud or undue influence. After a lapse of one year from the date of the designation, the declarant may have the designation vacated or changed by filing in that probate court an application to vacate or change the designation of heir; provided that there is compliance with the procedure, conditions, and prerequisites required in the making of the original declaration.

What Does It Mean To Be A Designated Heir?

Being a person’s designated heir effectively writes the designated person into Ohio’s intestate succession statute.

For example, let’s say Adam is not married and has no children.  He has a mother, a brother, and a sister.  Adam is very close with his brother.  Adam executed a will leaving his assets to his brother, but the will was determined not to be a valid will under Ohio law.

Under Ohio intestate succession law, Adam’s mother would inherit his estate.  However, if Adam designated his brother has his heir, his brother would inherit Adam’s estate because he would inherit the same share as a child born in lawful wedlock.  This is the power of Ohio’s designated heir statute.

Who Can Designate An Heir Under Ohio Law?

Any person of sound mind and memory and free of restraint can designate an heir under the Ohio Designated Heir Statute.

How Do You Designate An Heir Under Ohio Law?

The Ohio Designated Heir Statute requires that the person designating an heir appear before the probate judge of the person’s county and in the presence of the judge and two disinterested persons, file a written declaration declaring that as the person’s free and voluntary act the person did designate and appoint another to stand in the relation of an heir at law in the event of his death.

The written declaration must:

  • Declare that as the person’s free and voluntary act, the person did designate and appoint another to stand in the relation of an heir at law in the event of his death;
  • State the name and place of residence of the designated heir;
  • Be attested by the two disinterested persons;
  • Be subscribed by the designator.

 

There is no requirement to give notice to the person that you have designated as an heir.

Can You Revoke a Designation Of An Heir?

Yes, under Ohio law a person can vacate or change the designation of heir after a lapse of one year from the date of the designation.

The designation can be vacated or changed by filing in the same probate court an application to vacate or change the designation of heir, and complying with the procedure, conditions, and prerequisites required in the making of the original declaration.

A Designated Heir Inherits From But Not Through His Designator

In Blackwell v. Bowman, 150 Ohio St. 34, 44-45 (1948) the Court determined that an Ohio designated heir inherits as to the property of the declarant, but not through the declarant, stating:

It seems to us that the rational interpretation of the language of [the designated heir statute] is that when a declarant has designated an heir, that heir stands only as to declarant and not his family or relatives, in the same relation, for all purposes, as designee would if a child born in lawful wedlock; and that the rules of inheritance as to the property of declarant will be the same between him and the relatives by blood of declarant as if designee had been so born.

With this construction, which is consistent with the background of the designated-heir statute, with the reconciliation of all the language in it, and with the common sense which must have inspired its enactment, a designated heir inherits from but not through the declarant.

 

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