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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Future - September 2009

Where There's A Will, There Are Questions
Wills Are Necessary, but Require Care and Planning

Many questions usually come to mind when the subject of a will comes up. Such as, do I need one? What does a will do? How do I write one? And what happens if I do not have one?

A will provides a way for you to make certain your wishes are carried out after you die. In Ohio if you die without a will, a probate court will decide how your assets are distributed. Often the laws that govern probate will drive the court to decisions that are not what you would have wanted. The result can be much strain and suffering for your loved ones.

Anyone who owns real estate or personal property should have a will, regardless of the value of the estate.Anyone who owns real estate or personal property should have a will, regardless of the value of the estate. This legal document will detail how you want your assets and property, such as bank accounts, land, house and stocks and bonds, to be distributed in the event of your passing.

Use your will to say who will get what. For example, you can leave everything to your spouse, divide everything between your children, or bestow a percentage to your favorite charity. For the most part, Ohio law allows you to leave your assets and property to whomever you choose; however, a surviving spouse does have certain rights over property regardless of what a will says.

If you have minor children, it is important to name a legal guardian for them in your will. Be sure to speak to this individual before doing so to ensure he is willing to take on this responsibility. In addition, you will need to name a trustee if you wish to leave them an inheritance because minor children cannot inherit directly. The trustee will oversee their inheritance until they are older.

Your will should include the name of an executor who will be in charge of administering your will. Again, ask this individual before naming them to make sure he is willing. While there are computer programs and Web sites to assist you in writing a will, AARP recommends against trying to tackle one on your own. If a will does not firmly comply with the requirements in law, it may be ruled invalid by a court.

Instead, seek the expertise of an estate planning lawyer; while the cost of such services can vary, it is money well spent to ensure your estate is handled in the manner you wish. According to Alan Acker, an attorney in Columbus, a less complex will might be prepared for as little as $200 to $300, or as much as $1,000. More complex plans often will require trusts and more sophisticated planning, and fees can be thousands of dollars. To get an understanding of what your situation may entail, consult with an attorney knowledgeable in this area and discuss fees after an initial meeting, but before work is undertaken. Expect to pay for an initial consultation unless the attorney has informed you otherwise.

Once your will is created, keep it in a safe place and make someone close to you aware of that location.

Your life and financial status change from year to year, and your will should change with you. At a minimum, review and revise your will every few years, but especially after major life events, such as a marriage, divorce or birth of a child. If changes are needed, have it updated quickly.

Thinking about and preparing for a time when you will no longer be around is not easy. While we want to believe we will live forever, we know that is not the case. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is always difficult, but you can make your passing a little easier on your family by leaving a will.