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Making a Will in Ohio

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

Steps to Create a Will in Ohio

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in Ohio:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Decide who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Choose someone to manage children's property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will safely.

Why Should I Make 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 Don't Have 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 Quicken WillMaker & Trust. 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 Making a Will in Ohio?

To make a will in Ohio, you must be:

In most cases, you must make your will on hard copy. That is, it must be on actual paper. It cannot be on an audio, video, or any other digital file. (Although, see "Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?," below.) However, Ohio does permit an oral will that you make during your last sickness, as long as you had someone witness your words, you put your instructions in writing within 10 days and have it witnessed by two disinterested witnesses, and your will is probated within three months after your death. Ohio Rev. Code § 2107.60. Ohio does permit handwritten wills (Ohio Rev. Code § 2107.60), but they must still be witnessed.

How Do I Sign My Ohio Will?

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.

Your witnesses should be disinterested, meaning that they do not stand to inherit anything from your will. Otherwise, they can lose any gift you leave them. Ohio Rev. Code § 2107.15.

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. Therefore, if your witnesses are available after your death, they may be called to testify about you signing or acknowledging your will.

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 Quicken WillMaker & Trust 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 them, 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).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

In a few states, you can make a legal will digitally – that is, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Although such electronic wills are currently available in only a minority of states, many other states are considering making electronic wills legal. It is generally assumed that most states will allow them in the near future.

Currently, Ohio's law says that you must sign or acknowledge your will in the "conscious presence" of two or more competent witnesses. It then defines "conscious presence" as being within the range of any of your senses except the sight or sound made through "telephonic, electronic, or other distant communication."

Ohio lawmakers introduced a bill in 2019 that would have allowed individuals to electronically sign wills and other estate planning documents, but it did not pass.

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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