What is a Will and why do I need one in Westerville, Ohio?
A Last Will and Testament is a document that describes how property you hold in your name on the date of your death will be distributed through the local court in the county of your residence at the time of your death. Your wishes about a variety of subjects following your death can be addressed in the Will, including the distribution of your property, care of minor children, and burial wishes. A Will helps you remove doubt about your desires on the points included in the Will, therefore reducing the chances of disputes among your beneficiaries, to the extent that your property is controlled by your Will on your death. A Will allows your property to more easily be distributed to and by the persons you choose than if you have no Will.
However, it is important to recognize that much property you own at the time of your death may not be controlled by your Will; some property you own is going to transfer outside of your Will if you have named beneficiaries on your financial accounts, or your real property, in the title to the property, or in the contract with the financial institution. Nonetheless, a Will is important to have in order to control property that is in your name and that is not directed to beneficiaries in these other ways.
A Will can be created through several different methods and may be subject to certain requirements, depending on the state where you intend the Will to apply. Rules concerning Wills as to the proper execution of Wills and there use vary state by state. The state of residence is the one that controls the proper execution of a Will, and the state of death controls the application of the Wills.
Some examples of different types of Wills in the various states include:
- Self-proving Wills/testamentary Wills: which is a traditional Will that is signed in the presence of witnesses;
- Holographic Wills: Wills that are written, but not signed in front of witnesses;
- Oral Wills: Wills that are oral statements given to witnesses. Not all of these Wills are uniformly adopted in each state.
Living Wills may be something you have heard of, but these are not Testamentary Wills at all; they do not distribute assets, but Living Wills set out the client’s wishes for medical care in some limited situations and are a proclamation to the medical staff of these wishes. These types of documents are part of the client’s estate planning, but are more closely related to a Health Care Directive than a Last Will and Testament.
There are issues that do arise with Wills that are not signed in the presence of Witnesses, so a self-proving or testamentary Will is usually advised, executed in accord with the law of the state in which the client lives.
If someone dies with property in their name, without designating beneficiaries and without having a Will, then the state laws of ‘intestate’ inheritance apply. In general, the intestate laws designate which family members receive your property and in what percentage, but there are also many more expenses incurred in the administration of an estate without clear direction on the authority of the estate administration normally included in a Will. This can reduce the estate resources for the estate beneficiaries, and often may fail to meet the decedent’s life goals.
A Will can be changed periodically through the use of amendments or “codicils.” Given today’s technology, it is as easy to simply ‘re-do’ the Will with the changes desired and re-execute it in place of the prior Will if there are changes. This allows clients to change their Will as circumstances change throughout life.
Following death, a Will goes through a legal procedure called “probate.” In probate, the validity of the Will is verified, the executor or personal representative is formally appointed, and the distribution of assets is permitted. It is always a good idea to have a Will, to save your family time, money and potential grief.
Here at Bale & Associates, I am very experienced with drafting Wills and estate planning. I can assist with preparing your Will and providing advice. If you have questions about a Will or need assistance preparing a Will, contact me today to learn what options are available for you.