A will is a formal document that lets you tell other people how to distribute what you own at the time of your death. If you die without a will, you are said to have died intestate and, with certain exceptions, your assets are distributed according to Ohio law. In cases where someone dies without a will, or if the will is declared invalid because it was prepared incorrectly, the laws of your state will determine who gets your property. Without a will, depending on the nature of your family, your estate may be distributed entirely to your spouse or may be divided among your spouse and surviving children. If you want to distribute your estate in amounts or to beneficiaries contrary to the Ohio intestacy statute, you must have a valid will that states your wishes.
A valid will also allows you to designate who gets specific real or personal property; make special provisions for certain property or certain individuals; name the person you want to carry out the wishes in your will, called the executor; provide for charities or individuals outside your immediate family should you decide to give such a gift; name a guardian for any children who are not yet adults; and disinherit someone who would otherwise receive a part of your property under Ohio law if you died without a will.
Ohio law permits any competent person 18 or older to make a will. To be competent to make a will, you must be of “sound mind and memory” meaning you understand that you are making a will; you are aware of the property that you own; you know your relationship with your family; and you know how your property will be distributed through the will.
Your will must be in writing, dated, and signed by you on the last page in front of two competent witnesses, who see you sign the will and hear you acknowledge that the will is yours. A person who will inherit anything from you as a result of your will is not considered a competent witness due to the conflict of interest the person might have should a question come up about the validity of the will.
Everyone should have a will. We do not recommend that you draft your will yourself, because one mistake can result in your assets, or God forbid your children, not going to the person that you designate. When you are ready to make or change your will, and you want to talk to somebody who understands how to carry out your wishes when you die, we can help you.