The will is the foundation of a solid estate plan. Anyone in Ohio serious about getting a handle on their own estate plan should probably have a will. Depending on their personal circumstances, a person may want to have other estate planning documents, such as trusts, as well. This blog post will provide a little bit of information on the basic estate planning document, the will.

A person who makes a will is called a testator. Testators often write their wills with the help of an attorney. For a will to be valid, the testator must be able to understand the full meaning of the will. Wills usually must be in writing, and they usually must be typed or pre-printed. A testator must also sign their own will unless they are physically unable to do so, in which case they can authorize another to sign on their behalf. Usually, the signing of the will must happen in the presence of witnesses who attest that they witnessed the signing of the will.

There are usually restrictions on how testators can distribute their assets. Oftentimes the testator cannot completely disinherit his or her spouse. The laws of Ohio and other states entitle spouses to a share of the testator’s property. Non-dependent children can usually be disinherited, but this should be expressly stated in the will to forestall legal challenges to the will’s validity.

Another restriction applies to property owned in joint tenancy. This kind of property can include a home or a checking account, among other assets. When one of the joint tenants dies, the other joint tenant automatically takes the full interest in the property. Also, if an account has named beneficiaries, those beneficiaries automatically get the property after the account owner’s death, regardless of the provisions of a will.