A will is a document that provides for the way in which a person’s probate property will be distributed upon death. To be valid, it must meet certain formal requirements as provided by the laws of the state involved. A person who makes a will in Ohio must be free from improper influences, must be at least 18 years old and must be of sound mind. With limited exceptions, a will must be written. In Ohio, a will must be signed by the testator in the presence of two disinterested and competent witnesses who must sign and attest to the act of witnessing.

A properly drafted will may reduce expenses of administration in a number of ways. Provisions can be placed in wills that take full advantage of the “marital deduction” section of federal and Ohio estate tax laws. In most cases it is possible to avoid the payment of a bond for the executor and/or guardian by so providing in the will. If there is no will, the sale of real estate and/or personalty owned by the decedent can be a very expensive and time consuming affair.

When is it prudent to have a will?

Everyone who owns any real or personal property should have a will regardless of the present amount of their estate. Estates grow in value almost unnoticed through the repayment of mortgages, appreciation of stocks and other investments, inheritances from relatives, and other sources. Without a will, the distribution of your property is made pursuant to the statute of descent and distribution rather than how you designate. Anyone with minor children should also have a will so that you can control who may be appointed as the children’s guardian in the event of the death of both parents. A will can also allow you to control how and when assets are paid over to minors or others with special needs.

What happens if I do not make a will?

When a person dies without a will, or dies “intestate” as the law calls it, the property of the deceased is distributed according to a formula fixed by law, called the Statute of Descent and Distribution. In other words, if you do not make a will, you do not have any say about how your property will be distributed. If you do not make a will, you do not control who will administer your estate, nor do you control who will be your minor children’s guardian if one is required.