Everyone should have a will. A will is a legally binding document that outlines how an individual wants their property distributed after they die.  Having an up-to-date will can give you peace of mind in knowing that your wishes will be fulfilled, and your loved ones will be taken care of. 

In order for a will to be valid, it must meet certain legal requirements imposed by Ohio law.  There are many services out there today purporting to assist you in creating a will on your own.  It is important to remember that if your will is not properly done, the probate court will declare it to be invalid and it will have no effect.  The specific language that is used in the will is also critical in determining that assets are distributed according to your wishes.  An attorney will know all of the right questions to ask you to ensure that you are not forgetting any important details.  Attorneys experienced in probate work know just how to draft documents in order to avoid issues down the road.  For these reasons, it is critical to have such an important document created by attorneys skilled in estate planning.  A will is not something that you want to get wrong. 

Regardless of wealth, physical assets, age, or situation a will is the simplest and easiest way to convey your wishes. Why?

  • You direct who cares for your kids. If both parents should pass without a will, that issue may not be so straightforward.
  • You decide who gets what, hopefully sidestepping family squabbles.
  • When you make your wishes known, you can shorten the estate administration process.
  • Potentially, you can minimize estate taxes.
  • You decide who will wind up your affairs.
  • You can disinherit someone who might inherit if you do not have a will.
  • You can donate to causes you care about.
  • By having a will you can fend off shady claimants who may come out of the woodwork.

While you are not legally required to have a will, without one, any property that you have must pass through probate and will be distributed pursuant to Ohio statutes on intestate succession, providing you with no say over who obtains your real and personal property.  The way that state law distributes your assets may not be the way that you would want them distributed.  A will also allows you to determine who will be appointed executor and administer your estate in probate court.  Without a will, you have no control over who will be appointed by the court. 

Having created a will in the past does not mean that you are properly protected today.  Things change. You can revise your will at any time.  Changes such as marriage, divorce, children, new assets, a move to a different state, or a change in the law may necessitate a need to change your will.  Your will should be reviewed every five to seven years or after a life change.  Periodically reviewing and revising your will is just as important as creating one in the first place.  To avoid unintended outcomes, your will should consider any changes in your family life and rethink how your estate plan is set up. Things change:

  • Individuals you’ve named may have died.
  • New people may have come into your life.
  • You or one of your beneficiaries may have married, remarried or divorced.
  • Your kids or grandkids may have turned 18.
  • A beneficiary may have become incapacitated or may have fallen out of grace.
  • You may have moved to another state.
  • Relevant laws may have changed.
  • The value of your estate may have changed significantly.

Don’t procrastinate. If a family’s provider dies or becomes disabled unexpectedly without an estate plan in place it adds even more stress on your family at the time of bereavement. A will ensures that your assets will be disposed of according to your wishes and that your children receive the guardian of your choosing. 

If you can’t remember when you last updated your will, it’s time to take a look at it. Call Dworken & Bernstein’s estate planning lawyers to set up a complimentary case review.

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