Why do I need a last will and testament?

by Scott E. Knox, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Almost everyone needs a will, even if other estate planning tools have been used.  The function of a will is generally to direct who is to receive your property, including your money and personal possessions, and who is to be your Executor, that is, the person who will oversee that your property goes where you want it to. Typically, a person making a will leaves the majority of his estate to a primary beneficiary, and names a secondary beneficiary in case the primary beneficiary is not living at the time of the will-maker’s death. You can divide up your estate among as many people as you wish, however.

The Executor chosen is often the primary beneficiary, since that person has a great interest in seeing that your property is properly distributed. An alternate Executor is also appointed if possible, in case the primary Executor is unable to serve. As the Executor has a great deal of responsibility, you should take care to choose someone who is competent and reliable.

If for no other reason, it is critical to have a will so that you waive the requirement of a bond for your Executor.  Ohio law requires that Executors be bonded to insure they don’t run off with the estate assets.  If you do not waive that requirement, the person you choose to be your Executor may not qualify to serve, as he or she may not be eligible for bonding due to a moderate credit rating or paying their credit cards late.

In conjunction with making a will, you can get advice on how your assets can be titled so that they don’t need to pass under the will at all, and just go directly to your intended beneficiary.

Ohio requires that wills be in writing and be signed at the end by the person making the will. This signature must be witnessed and signed by two disinterested, competent people, with the person making the will and both witnesses signing in each other’s presence, at the same time.

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