DIFFICULTY: Legal assistance is recommended

Initial Filing Fee: $0

A will is a formal document the provides information for how to distribute a person’s estate after they have passed away, who is known as the testator of the will. Estates, or the items covered in a will, include real property (land), personal property (stock, bank accounts, car), and intangible property (claims, rights). Anything legally belonging to an individual needs to be divided up at their death as the money and property cannot remain unattached, which takes place in a process known as Probate. If a person dies without a will in Ohio, which is referred to as dying intestate, their estate is divided according to Ohio law. This means that any money or property you want to go to people other than your spouse and surviving children will not make its way to them, nor to your spouse and children in the amounts you might wish. Specifically, you need a will in Ohio if you wish to:

• Make a specific bequest of real or personal property
• Make special provisions for certain property or individuals
• Name your Executor
• Provide for individuals outside your family or for charities
• Name a guarding for children under the age of 18
• Disinherit someone
• Leave your entire estate to a spouse who would only receive a portion under Ohio law

Thus, it is important to create a will and regularly revisit it when your situation or finances change, for which legal assistance is not required, but can make the difference between a legally binding will and one that could lead to dispute and controversy.

Step 1: Determine if You May Make a Will

Under Ohio law, anyone who is the age of eighteen years or older, is of sound mind and memory, and is not under restrain of any sort may make a will. If there are extraordinary circumstances, such as the necessity to determine whether a person is of sound mind and memory still, then an estate planning attorney should be involved in the process.

Step 2: Decide What Type of Will You Want

In some states, it is admissible for a testator to deliver their will orally. In Ohio, however, a will is only valid if it is handwritten, printed, or typed. This means that a testator who is incapable of writing their will on their own will need to employ a neutral or disinterested part to aid them in the composition of the will.

Step 3: Compose the Will

Once you have an idea of how you would like to divide your real and personal property you will need to compose your will in accordance with legal guidelines. In general, this means you will need to mention who you are in the will, that you are of sound mind and body, the date you are composing the will, and that you denounce or void any wills formerly created by yourself. Then, you need to make sure you note in detail how you would like your real and personal property distributed.

Step 4: Sign the Will

When you are done composing the will you need to sign it and orally mention that you are confirming that the contents of the will reflect your intentions and wishes. This must be performed in the presence of two witnesses, each of whom is over the age of 18 and is considered disinterested in the will’s contents, i.e. they will not lose or gain anything through it. If the testator is unable to sign the will on their own, then another party may sign the will following their oral consent to do so in front of the two witnesses.

Step 5: Revise the Will

If at any point in the future you choose to edit or altogether change your will, you can compose a new will just as you did before. You need only mention at the beginning that you denounce and void any former wills. Additionally, should you wish to void a will or any part of a will, you may also do so by scratching parts out, ripping, burning, or generally destroying part or all of the will.

Step 6: Deliver the Will

Once the will is completed and signed, the testator then has a choice of where to dispose of the will until such time as they wish to revise it or they have passed. They may choose to keep it, deliver it into the possession of an estate attorney, or to deliver it to the office of the judge of the probate court in the county where they live. In this latter case, the court will then safely keep the will on hand, for a small fee of five dollars, and will only deliver the will again to the testator or to the executor of their estate following their passing.

Additional Resources

Ohio Code Governing Wills

Example of Forms relating to the Creation and Execution of a Will for Franklin County

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