How to Create a Will in Ohio

By Teo Spengler
Last Will, Testament document, a fountain pen

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"With God all things are possible" is Ohio's state motto, but you may not require divine assistance to create a will under the unambiguous rules of that state. Write it out in longhand, type it or print it -- as long as you have the document witnessed by two adults, it's probably valid.

Ohio Wills

Because a person who dies isn't around to answer questions, Ohio law requires most wills to be in writing, signed on the last page, and witnessed by two adults who also sign the document. Written wills can be written out by hand or printed as long as they are appropriately signed and witnessed. An oral will is only valid if the dying person has no written will, knows he is dying and states his beneficiary choices to two competent, disinterested adults who are not among the beneficiaries. These witnesses must reduce his statement to writing and file it with the probate court. Even so, real property cannot be transferred by oral will.

Will Requirements

Anyone of sound mind, 18 years or older, can create a will. A will is a legal document setting out who you want to inherit your probate property when you die. It's a good idea to name an executor in your will. The executor is the person who shepherds the will through the court-supervised probate process in Ohio, where estate debts are paid and taxes filed before the property is distributed. If you die without a valid will, your assets pass to your close family members under Ohio's intestate law. Generally, the surviving spouse receives the largest intestate share.

Spousal Rights

Although you aren't obligated to leave property in your will to your children or your spouse, your spouse can elect to take her intestate share of the property, no matter what the will provides. The intestate share is the share she would receive if the decedent leaves no will. The intestate share of a surviving spouse depends on whether the deceased had children, and whether those children were also the children of the surviving spouse. The spouse has a limited period of time in Ohio to make an election to take her share of the probate estate under the will or to take her intestate share.

Probate Property

Not all property you own in Ohio passes through the probate proceeding, and it pays to remember this as you are drafting your will. Property like insurance policy proceeds passes outside probate to the person you name as beneficiary. Often, retirement accounts also pass to a named beneficiary. Similarly, if you hold title to property with someone else and the deed provides for "right of survivorship," the share of the first owner to die passes to the other owner automatically, not through probate.

About the Author

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.

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