Making a Will in Ohio

How to make a will in Ohio and what can happen if you don't.

What Can I Do With an Ohio Will?

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • leave your property to people or organizations
  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
  • name an executor, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens if I Die Without a Will?

In Ohio, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Ohio's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, nieces or nephews, cousins of any degree, and the descendants of a spouse who dies before you do. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Ohio?

No. You can make your own will in Ohio, using Nolo's do-it-yourself will software or online will programs. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.

What Are the Requirements for Signing a Will in Ohio?

To finalize your will in Ohio:

  • you must sign the end of your will or acknowledge it in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will in front of you. Ohio Rev. Code § 2107.03.

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Ohio, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal. In many states, you and your witnesses can sign a notarized statement that makes your will "self-proving." However, Ohio does not give you this option.

Should I Use My Will to Name an Executor?

Yes. In Ohio, you can use your will to name an executor who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's will software and online will produces a letter to your executor that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

In Ohio, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:

  • tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying your will with the intent to revoke it
  • ordering someone else to tear, cancel, obliterate, or destroy your will in front of you
  • having someone else tear, cancel, obliterate, or destroy your will according to your written instructions
  • making a new will that revokes the old one, or
  • making another writing that says it revokes the old will following the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above). Ohio Rev. Code § 3107.33.

If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal) or you separate from your spouse and enter into a separation agreement with your spouse, Ohio law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. This rule does not apply if you happen to remarry your spouse or specifically state in your will (or divorce decree or contract relating to the division of your property) that divorce should not affect the provisions in your will. Ohio Rev. Code § 3107.33. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help.

If you need to make changes to your will, it’s best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).

Where Can I Find Ohio’s Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Ohio’s laws about making wills here: Ohio Revised Code Title XXI Probate - Juvenile Chapter 2107 Wills.

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