The will is the foundation of many good estate plans. Depending on a testator’s situation, it could suffice by itself as the sole document of their estate plan, or it could work with trusts and other tools as part of a more complex estate plan. Either way, having a will can be a great idea. The following is a brief introduction to wills.
A will is a legal document that states how the testator would like their assets, possessions and other interests disposed of after the testator’s death. In Ohio, a testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind before they can make a valid will. To be of sound mind, one must be not living with dementia, serious mental illness or any other condition that would negatively impact one’s judgment. Also, one must not be under duress — in other words under undue pressure from others.
For a will to be valid, the testator must sign it in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must observe the testator signing the will or must hear the testator acknowledge their signature.
If a person does not have a valid will at the time of their death, their estate will be distributed per Ohio’s rules of intestate succession. These rules favor family members, even very distant ones, over other people and institutions. This means that if a person wishes to leave some of their assets to a friend, a place of worship, a college or a charitable institution, having an estate plan that includes a will is necessary.