One of the most recognized estate planning documents is the will. The purpose of a will is simple: to inform a probate court how you would like your assets to be divided up among your heirs and identified beneficiaries and to designate a person to wrap up your affairs following your death. There is much more to crafting an effective will, though. A will may not be able to affect the entirety of a person’s estate. What is more, a will that is not properly crafted may be challenged and set aside after the person’s death. Having help from a knowledgeable Ohio estate planning attorney can assist you in maximizing the usefulness of a will. Contact Walker Novack Legal Group, LLC today at (614) 423-8276 to learn more about your estate planning options.
Once the creator of a will (the “testator”) dies, his or her will is filed with the probate court and the probate court ensures that, insofar as possible, the testator’s wishes are carried out. However, the terms of a will only apply to assets that pass through the probate process. Non-probate assets, such as transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts, life insurance policies with a designated beneficiary, retirement accounts that have a designated beneficiary, and assets held in the name of someone or something else (like a trust), are not impacted by a will’s provisions.
A will transfers assets from the decedent to heirs and beneficiaries through “bequests.” These bequests can be of a general, residual nature or of a specific nature. A specific bequest would give a specific, identifiable person or institution a particular asset. A testator could, for example, grant her son her engagement ring. Alternatively, a testator could direct that his or her “residual estate” – the assets left over after the payment of certain creditors’ claims and other expenses – be given to one or more persons or entities.
Making specific bequests versus a general residual bequest may seem more time-consuming but doing so may be more advantageous to the preservation of your estate’s value. Specifically, creditors who may have a claim against your estate may be able to have their claims paid before distribution of your residual estate occurs. What Makes a Will “Valid” in Ohio?
Wills must conform to specific legal requirements in order to be admitted into a probate proceeding and honored. Specifically, the testator must, at the time of the creation of the will: (1) be living and over the age of 18 years; (2) have his or her mental faculties intact; (3) be free from any undue duress or coercion from someone else; (4) reduce the terms and provisions of the will to writing; (5) sign his or her will; and (6) have two witnesses who are over the age of 18 years, of sound mind, and disinterested (i.e., not beneficiaries or heirs), watch him or her sign the will or acknowledge his or her signature.
Your estate planning team at Walker Novack Legal Group, LLC will work with you to determine whether a will is an appropriate estate planning tool to accomplish your estate planning goals and objectives. Together with other strategies, we will help make sure that your probate and non-probate assets will be handled according to your wishes. Call our office at (614) 423-8276 to learn more and to schedule your free, no-obligation estate planning consultation today.