It sounds simple; You just want to give your assets to the people you love in a way that provides for those that can’t provide for themselves and avoids fighting so the family stays strong.

Should I download a Will template or should I meet with a lawyer?

Family structures have gotten pretty complex in the last few decades. With many couples electing to not marry and live together with or without having children, with divorce rates over 60%, and remarriages extending core families, there are lots of horror stories stemming from Wills that weren’t written properly. Loopholes and estate plan ambiguity can provoke your loved ones to contest your Will and file lawsuits to claim what is “rightfully theirs”. Ohio inheritance laws update frequently. Uncle Sam may (but not often) want a piece, how can you minimize the tax? An estate lawyer can be extremely helpful.

What is actually yours to give?

If you’re married, divorced with children, or have contracts (i.e. prenuptial agreements and/or certain trusts), you may have restrictions.

What should your Will include?

Here are a few basics:

Beneficiaries are people you choose to receive real property or personal property in the form of cash or assets. It’s common to name your spouse, children, friends, charities, or other family members.

Executor is the individual who will carry out what’s written in your Will. You can choose whomever you like, but most people choose a responsible friend or family member. If you don’t name an executor, often this job falls into the hands of an administrator who has to pay for a bond.

Parental guardian: If you are caring for young children, it’s important to name the person(s) you want to raise your children should you pass away. Since this is a major life endeavor for the person or people you name, list a few individuals in case one or two of them are not in a position to take on this role at the time of your death.

What should be left out of your Will?

Conditional gifts: You are not allowed to leave conditional gifts, such as bequeathing money to a beneficiary on the condition that they get married, get divorced or make some other life change. Although it may make for a good movie plot, in real life, it’s just not legal.

Final arrangements instructions: Your Will is typically not read until after the funeral, so your requests may not be carried out.

Allocate property to pets: Pets cannot legally inherit any assets. This kind of thing happens more often than you would think! Create a Pet Trust and leave assets in the care of a Trustee for the benefit of your pets.

Should I include a personal note?

You can attach a personal note to your Will as a way to say goodbye to loved ones. It’s a good way to personalize a somewhat sterile document. Some people leave a video.

Your Will may not be the only part of an estate plan. Various trusts can be of enormous help and may have advantages over a Will. You also can leave assets to transfer at death outside of Probate Court. The most important thing is to make sure your Will is as clear as possible so that your wishes are fulfilled correctly.

Contact Estate Planning Attorney Chuck Bendig to get started.