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Will (Last Will and Testament) Explained by Will Lawyer

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A Will is an estate planning documentInformation on Wills from a Cleveland, Akron Area Will Lawyer

Our founding attorney is Will lawyer and we work with clients in Hudson, Westlake, Beachwood and all cities around the greater Cleveland, Akron area and help them design and execute their estate planing documents.  Here is some information on this topic, but please call us with any specific questions!

What is a Will?

Wills (AKA Last Will and Testament) (“LW&T”)are an important piece to every estate plan.  It is more formally referred to as a last will and testament. This is the document in which you tell the probate court and your executor how you want your assets to be distributed to your heirs and beneficiaries.  You can also appoint a guardian for your children, and make other important decisions relating to how your assets and family are treated upon your death.

It Directs the Probate Estate Administration

When anyone dies in Cuyahoga County, Summit County, Medina County, and surrounding counties owning any personal property or real estate, an estate in the Cuyahoga County Probate Court, Summit County Probate Court or Medina County Probate Court should be opened.  An estate is a probate court case that your LW&T controls.  The court oversees the distribution of your assets and appointment of a guardians to your children.

What is an Executor?

Every probate estate has a person responsible to manage the probate estate.  This person is given different titles depending on the circumstances upon which they are appointed.  An executor is a male that is named in a LW&T. An executrix is a female that is named in a LW&T. An administrator is a male that is not named in the LW&T, but otherwise gets appointed to manage the estate. An administratrix is a female that is not named but is still appointed to manage the estate. A personal representative is a generic term that sometimes includes people that would more technically be referred to as an executor, executrix, administrator or administratrix.  For sake of simplicity, I’ll use term “executor” here just like most people do.

What Are the  Executor’s Duties?

After someone dies, their executor must file their LW&T with the probate court.  This is known as probating the will.  Depending on how many assets the decedent dies owning, the probate estate may qualify for a fast-track case management schedule. The probate court fast track is known as a “release from administration.”

Use a Will to Distribute Your Assets to Your Heirs

If you have a simple estate plan that does not include a trust, then, generally, all of your personal assets and real estate will be distributed according to the terms of your LW&T.  You can leave assets to your children or other friends, family, charities, etc., in whatever way you want.  You can assign percentages of the total value of the probate estate to each beneficiary, this is generally referred to as a residuary bequest or general bequest. Additionally, you can give certain pieces of property to certain people, generally called specific bequests.

Use a Will to Nominate Guardians for Minor Children

If you have minor children, you can appoint guardians to take care of your children upon your death.  For this reason alone, every husband and wife needs this document.

What is a Pour-Over Will

If you have an advanced estate plan that includes a trust, you will have a specific type of will commonly referred to as a “pour over will” (“POW”). A POW is like any other will except it bequeaths all of your property to your trust.  This allows your trustee to distribute your assets through your trust according to the terms of your trust.  Generally, in estate planning with trusts, the trust is the most important part of the plan. One of the first steps in using a trust is funding the trust by retitling and assigning assets to the trust.  In this circumstance, the goal is generally to put all of your assets into trust to be protected by the trust, but if you overlook any assets and forget to retitle them in the name of the trust during your lifetime, then your POW distributes your assets to your trust upon your death.

What is Testate or Intestate and Testator?

These are more fancy legalese the legal system still uses. We try to avoid using legalese when possible, but these terms are still prevalent in relation to estate planning and Probate Court.  If you have a valid LW&T when you die, you will be known as a “testator” and to have died “testate.”  If you don’t, then you will be said to have died “intestate.”

This is Technical, You Should Use a Will Lawyer

Wills have very specific requirements and an error could make it invalid. In Ohio and most states, it must be signed by the testator and witnessed by two people.  You must be very careful when executing it as there are certain requirements that must be met in order for the will to be valid.  Whenever possible, you should always have a probate attorney help you draft and execute your will.  Ohio wills are governed by Chapter 2107 of the Ohio Revised Code, which you can read here: ORC Chapter 2107 – Wills

Your will is a very important part of your estate plan, and you should use a good Cleveland or Akron estate planning attorney to ensure your will is drafted and executed properly.  As an estate planning attorney and will lawyer, we’ve drafted countless wills for clients in Cleveland, Akron and surrounding areas.  Contact us now to get started on your will and estate plan.


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