Preparing a Will in Ohio

By Beverly Bird

Most states require wills to be in a printed format, and signed by witnesses as well as the testator, or the person to whom the will belongs, on the last page. But all states have some unique criteria for wills, as well. In Ohio, you must be of sound mind and memory, and be at least 18 years old to leave a will, even if you marry or become emancipated from your parents before then. A handwritten will is considered “printed” and is legal, provided it is witnessed.

Step 1

Decide who you want to be in charge of carrying out the terms of your will when you are gone. This person will be your executor, and it is a good idea to name a second person, as well, to do the job if your first choice predeceases you or does not want to serve. Decide how much power you want your executor to have, such as whether or not you want him to be able to take certain actions, such as sale of assets, if necessary, without the court’s approval. Ohio requires executors to post a bond, or insurance policy, against any financial wrongdoing, but you can waive this requirement in your will.

Step 2

Determine what assets you have to pass on and who you are going to leave them to. You can leave individual items to certain beneficiaries, but remember to add a provision for any value of your estate left over after these bequests are made. For instance, you can say that you leave the balance or “residuary” of your estate to your spouse or to all your beneficiaries to be divided equally.

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Step 3

Write your will to clearly explain your decisions. Ohio has online forms that you can download and follow. Call your witnesses together to watch you sign it. Although Ohio law does not specifically require it, it is a good idea to initial or sign the bottom of each page in addition to signing the last page. Your witnesses must also be at least 18 years of age. You need two witnesses. If one is a beneficiary, she will lose her bequest unless she is directly related to you -- then she is still entitled to receive as much as she would have gotten if you had died without a will. Ohio does not allow wills to be "self-proved" with an attached notarized statement that it is authentic, so any witnesses you choose should know that they will have to appear in court after your death to give testimony that they were there when you signed it and that they saw you do it.

Step 4

Place your will somewhere for safekeeping. Ohio allows you to deposit it with a judge of the probate court in the county where you live for a fee of $1, as of December 2010. It is sealed in a wrapper, and the court gives it to the person you designate after you pass away. If you do this, no one can contest it after your death.

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