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What is a will?

A will is a document that sets forth how a person would like to have his or her probate property distributed upon death. To be valid, a will must meet certain formal legal requirements.

Who may make a will?

Any person who is at least 18 years old, of sound mind, and not under undue influence, may make a will in Ohio.

How is a will made?

With limited exceptions, a will must be written and signed. A will must be witnessed by at least two people who have no interest in the will, in a special manner provided by law, and it must be executed in strict accordance with the law. The best way to ensure that a will is properly executed is to have an attorney supervise the signing of the will.

May I change my will?

Yes; you may change your will as often as you wish. You may change your entire will or you may change only part of it by using a document called a codicil. You should have your will reviewed if you have a change in circumstances, such as a marriage, birth of children, a divorce, changes in the nature or value of your estate, or if there are changes in the law. Changes in circumstances require careful analysis and reconsideration of all your will’s provisions to determine if it needs to be revised. To avoid potential unintended consequences, you should not make changes without the assistance and advice of an attorney.

How long does my will last?

A properly executed will is valid as long as it is not revoked. A will is generally revoked when a new will is executed. You also may revoke a will by destroying it with the intention of revoking it.

Does having a will increase my probate expense?

No. Generally it costs no more to administer an estate when you leave a will than it costs to administer an estate when there is no will. When there is a will, the executor distributes your probate property as you have directed in your will. When there is no will, the probate court will guide and enforce the distribution based upon provisions of Ohio law. In either case, the probate court must supervise the will’s administration.
A will may reduce administration expenses in a number of ways. A will can reduce taxes and expenses by taking advantage of the charitable or marital deduction provisions of federal and Ohio estate tax laws. In many situations, a will can also reduce costs by waiving the requirement of a fiduciary bond for the executor. A will may also grant specific powers to an executor. These granted powers may reduce the need (and additional potential expense) for additional probate court intervention.

How large an estate must I have to justify a will?

Everyone who owns any real or personal property should have a will, regardless of the properties’ value, because the purpose of the will is to ensure that the property is distributed the way you want it to be distributed, regardless of its value.

What happens if I die without a will?

If you die without a will, or intestate, as the law calls it, your probate property will be distributed to your nearest family members according to a formula fixed by law. You also cannot choose who the court will appoint to administer your estate.

Who should draft a will?

The drafting of a will requires professional judgment. The attorneys at Geygan & Geygan, Ltd. can help you avoid pitfalls and help design a will best suited for your situation.