Revised Codes for Wills in Ohio

by Heather Frances Google

After an Ohio resident dies, his property will be distributed under the terms of his will or, if he had no will, according to state law. A will must comply with Ohio’s rules, stated in the Ohio Revised Code, to be valid and enforceable. If it does not comply, the will can be challenged and declared invalid.

Formalities

In Ohio, a testator — the person making the will — must be at least 18 years of age and have testamentary capacity, meaning he is of sound mind and can appreciate the importance of what he is doing. A person cannot be forced to make a will since any kind of compulsion could invalidate the will. The testator must sign his will, or have someone else sign it for him if he cannot physically do so, in the presence of at least two competent witnesses.

Oral Wills

Ohio wills can be either typewritten or handwritten. Ohio also recognizes oral wills, but only if the will is made during the testator’s last illness and only with respect to personal property. Thus, real estate cannot be distributed by an oral will. Before an oral will is valid, it must be written down within 10 days and signed by two witnesses who heard the testator's wishes. These witnesses must be able to say that the testator had testamentary capacity at the time he recited the terms of the will.

Revocation

Ohio allows a testator to revoke his will if he decides he wants to change the terms of his will or withdraw it completely. To revoke the will, the testator can destroy it, have someone else destroy it in his presence, direct someone in writing to destroy it, or replace it with another will. Ohio has a special procedure whereby a will can be accepted by the probate court before the testator dies, but there is also a special revocation procedure for this type of situation available under Ohio law.

Divorce

When a testator divorces after he writes a will, any provisions in his will that give property to his former spouse are automatically revoked unless the will says otherwise. For example, if a testator makes a will giving everything to his spouse but divorces years later, his spouse will not inherit anything from him. Instead, his property will be distributed to his other heirs as determined by Ohio law.

Will Contests

Anyone who has an interest in the will can contest its validity after the testator’s death. Persons who can contest the will include those who are beneficiaries of the will, those who would inherit if the will were declared invalid and the executor of the testator’s estate. If the testator had the will admitted to the probate court before he died, it can only be contested under limited circumstances.