The holidays are quickly approaching, which also means the year is winding down. This is often a time when people find themselves with vacation days to burn or personal time off to use before they lose it at year’s end. Of course, it is also a time when we are all still facing a global pandemic, and here in Ohio, the cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations from the virus are increasing. It can make you think about life’s what-ifs. What if I get COVID-19 and end up in the hospital or even worse? What if I am not prepared and what if my family is not protected?
Why not use one of those vacation or PTO days to give yourself some peace of mind in case the worst-case scenario happens? Use one day to draft your last will and testament with the help of a knowledgeable, thorough and professional expert in estate and probate law.
Simply put, a will is a legal document that declares your wishes regarding your assets and the care of your children in case of your death. If you are to pass away without a last will and testament, any decisions regarding your estate will fall to a judge or state official. While wills can be prepared yourself, it is recommended to use an estate planning attorney to ensure everything is in legal order.
Ohio law states that any person 18 years of age or older and not under the influence of alcohol or drugs may legally draft a will. However, to be considered a valid or legally executable will, it must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses who have no interest in the will and other formalities must be followed or the will may be considered invalid. This is why it is highly recommended to utilize an attorney to ensure all legally required actions are followed and your will is valid.
Wills can be changed after they are written. After all, it is a legal representation of your dying wishes, so you can change your will as often as you would like. It is recommended to review your will after big life changes, such as marriage, the birth of children or grandchildren, divorce, etc. You can change your entire will or use a document called a codicil to change only part of the will. However, it is important to make changes under the representation of your lawyer as he/she can ensure they are legal and binding.
If you die without a will, your property will be bequeathed to your next of kin, typically your spouse or children if you have them. Ohio intestacy laws use a fixed formula, but generally, everything will go to the family.
You should also assign an executor of your will. An executor is a person or institution you trust to administer your estate and carry out any final wishes that you may have as an addendum to your will. In addition to distributing your assets, your executor will also be responsible for starting the probate process by filing papers with the court, taking inventory of the estate, paying any remaining bills (taxes, funeral costs, mortgage, etc.), notifying creditors and governmental agencies of your death, and preparing final tax returns. It is a big job, so make sure you have the person’s agreement before naming them your executor.
Are You Ready to Start Writing Your Will?
Put your PTO to good use during this last quarter of 2020 and get ready to start the new year with a fresh perspective. Drafting your will and ensuring your children, property and assets will be cared for and dispersed in the way you wish is a great way to start 2021. While it is not fun to think about death, it is necessary for this day and age when so many unprecedented and unexpected things are occurring. It never hurts to be prepared. It helps protect your assets and your family. And that’s the perfect way to kick off a great year!
Amy Turos brings extensive experience in family law, estate planning and motor vehicle accidents throughout Portage, Trumbull, Geauga and Summit counties.