A last will and testament is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (real and personal property) upon your death. Ohio wills permit the testator, the person writing the will, to provide for a spouse, children, other loved ones, and pets after his death as well as to name a personal representative for the estate.
Not to be confused with a will, an Ohio living will provides instructions should you become incapacitated and incapable of making decisions regarding your medical care.
Do You Need a Last Will and Testament?
Although a last will and testament is not legally required, without a will, state laws (called laws of intestacy) determine the distribution of an estate's assets. Because the outcome may not coincide with the decedent's (the person who passed away) wishes, it is generally advisable to create a last will and testament.
In addition to providing the opportunity to direct asset distribution, an Ohio last will and testament form also allows the testator to make a charitable gift, create a trust for any person, name a legal guardian for minor children, or create a “pet trust” in order to provide for the care of an animal after its owner’s death.
Before the terms of a will can be accepted, the will must be proven in probate court. Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing the estate of a deceased person.
Ohio offers “Relief from Administration” for the following estates:
- Estates valued at less than $100,000 if the surviving spouse is entitled to all of the estate’s assets; or
- Estates valued at less than $35,000 if the surviving spouse is not entitled to all of the estate’s assets or if there is no surviving spouse.
Intestacy: Dying Without a Will
Someone who dies without a will is called “intestate,” which invokes the strict laws of intestacy. In Ohio in the absence of a will, a surviving spouse inherits the entire estate unless the decedent or surviving spouse also has descendants, in which case the spouse’s share varies.
If there is no surviving spouse, descendants, or parents, other relatives, including siblings and grandparents, will inherit depending on the closeness of the relation.
Exceptions to Ability to Distribute Property
Not all property can be distributed according to a will. Some exceptions in Ohio include the following:
- Property owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship
- Life insurance policy and retirement account proceeds
- Elective share of surviving spouse
Form a Last Will in Ohio
The basic requirements for a Ohio last will and testament include the following:
- Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
- Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind and memory and not under restraint.
- Signature: The will must be signed by the testator or by someone else in the testator’s name in his conscious presence, by his express direction.
- Witnesses: An Ohio will must be signed by at least two witnesses, who should not also be beneficiaries in the will, in the conscious presence of the testator. The individuals should have seen the testator sign the will or heard him acknowledge the signature.
- Writing: An Ohio will must be in writing, except for oral wills as discussed more fully below.
- Beneficiaries: A testator can leave property to anyone.
Other Recognized Wills in Ohio
In addition to wills as described above, Ohio recognizes the following types of wills in certain circumstances:
- Nuncupative (oral) wills: if made in the last sickness and reduced to writing and subscribed by two competent disinterested witnesses within ten days after the speaking of the testamentary words.
- Holographic (handwritten) wills: if executed according to the provisions for valid wills.
Changing an Ohio Last Will and Testament
An Ohio will may be changed at any time by codicil (an amendment to the will), which must be executed in the same manner as a will.
Revoking an Ohio Last Will and Testament
The revocation of a Ohio will can be accomplished in the following ways:
(1) By executing a subsequent will;
(2) By executing some other writing that is signed, attested, and subscribed in the same manner as a valid will; or
(3) By “tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying ” the document with the intent of revoking it, done by either the testator or by someone else pursuant to the testator’s express written direction.
Note that in Ohio, if the testator gets divorced or has his marriage annulled or dissolved after executing a will, certain provisions in favor of the ex-spouse are revoked.
When you are ready to make a last will, LegalZoom can help. We can help you create a last will online in three easy steps.