Four Documents that Every Adult should Have: #3 – Last Will and Testament : Planning for the Future / Dealing with the Past
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Four Documents that Every Adult should Have: #3 – Last Will and Testament

by Betty Burley on 11/07/18

This is the third in a series of Four articles that discuss the four documents that I think every adult should have.

Last week I discussed the Ohio Living Will Declaration, which tells your health care team what your wishes are if you should no longer be able to make informed health care decisions for yourself because you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious.

This week the topic is your Last will and Testament – more commonly known as your “Will.”

3.  Last Will and Testament – Your Will

What is a Last Will and Testament?

A Last Will and Testament (Will) is a legal document that serves several important purposes:

1)      It gives instructions that tell the people who survive you and the Probate Court how to distribute your property after you die;

2)      It names an Executor – a person who will ensure that your last wishes are followed;

3)      It gives your Executor powers – including the power to pay your creditors, to file a last tax return; to distribute, sell or dispose of your property, and to operate your business until it can be sold or wound down.  As technology has become a more important part of our lives, your Will can even give your Executor the power to close your Facebook account and archive your email; 

4)      Your Will allows you to divide your money and property the way that you want – instead of the way that state law dictates for people who die “intestate” (without a Will);

5)      If you have minor children, your Will tells the court who you would want to act as your child’s guardian if you die;

6)      If you leave money for your children, your Will can provide for a Trust to be set up for your children and name a Trustee who will take care of the money for the children, releasing it for purposes that you have laid out in writing, until the children reach the age that you choose to inherit the remaining money.

Who should have a Last Will and Testament?

Every adult should have a Last Will and Testament.  If you die without a Last Will and Testament, you are said to have died “intestate.”  If you die intestate, the court will need to appoint someone as an administrator to wrap up your affairs.  Unless you took steps to keep your bank accounts, car titles and real estate out of probate (a plan we will discuss in a later article), your property will be liquidated and transferred according to the Ohio Revised Code.

Why do I need a Last Will and Testament?

I have heard many people state that they are still young – they don’t need a Will.  However, if you have any money or property whatsoever – even your last paycheck sitting in your checking account – someone is likely going to have to open an estate to transfer what you own.  If you haven’t left a Will, someone will have to apply for the powers that your Executor would have had.  If more than one person wants the job, then there may be a fight.  If nobody steps up, then the court may name a complete stranger as the administrator of your estate.

Where do I go to have a Last Will and Testament made for me?

While there are many online companies that will allow you to enter information into a form and then will spit out a document for a low, low price, the old adage applies, “You get what you pay for.”  Unless you understand all of the legalese in both the document and the website, the document that you create yourself without ever talking to a lawyer may or may not accomplish what you want.  In some cases, that document may not even be valid.  I think you owe it to yourself and your potential heirs to talk with an attorney about your wishes.  Having a Will drafted by an attorney probably isn’t as expensive as you think.

The next article in this series will discuss your Ohio Statutory Form Power of Attorney – what it is, what it does (and does not) authorize, and why you need it.


Attorney Betty Burley has been practicing law in Vermilion, Ohio since 2010.  She offers consultations in person, by telephone or through Facetime / Skype.  Attorney Burley offers special pricing on a “Four Documents” package that includes a Healthcare Power of Attorney, Ohio Living Will, Last Will and Testament and Durable Power of Attorney.  Your planning consultation is provided free of charge.  

Call 440-967-1529 or visit our website at to schedule your Four Documents planning appointment.

All information provided in our blog posts is intended for educational purposes only.  This article is not intended as, and should not be substituted for legal advice.  Attorney Burley is not your attorney unless you have signed an agreement and paid any required fees.

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