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Wills: The centerpiece of any succession plan BY RYAN CONKLIN, ATTORNEY, WRIGHT & MOORE LAW CO., LPA

The concept of a will can be traced back to the Roman Empire, and many of the principles of a will stem from old English common law. Today, a person’s last will and testament is a vital part of that individual’s succession plan. Let’s take a look at a few key issues surrounding wills.

What constitutes a valid will? RYAN CONKLIN

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There are special rules governing the preparation and execution of a will. To ensure your will is valid:

Ohio law provides protections for spouses and children from complete disinheritance. Even though you can disinherit a spouse or child in your will, they can still complete paperwork to get some value from your probate estate.

What happens if I don’t have a will? Ohio law provides a way to distribute your assets if you pass away without a will. These laws, known as intestate laws, basically determine your next of kin. Many farm families do not like to hear this information because it means the government decides the distribution of an estate.

• You must be 18 or older.

Do I need a will if I already have a trust?

• You must be of sound mind, free of restraint or undue influence at the time of execution.

Yes. Trusts are used to tackle complex estate plans more efficiently than wills. Even if you have a trust in place, executing a will is still important. If there are any assets that must be transferred through probate court, your will ensures those assets pour over into your trust. So, if you have a trust, you should also have a pour-over will.

• Generally speaking, the will must be in writing and signed. • The will must be witnessed by two or more disinterested parties (not named as executor or a beneficiary). AGCREDIT LEADER APRIL 2020

Can I disinherit someone through my will?

• Though not required, the will should name a primary and backup executor to administer your estate.

Can I change my will? Yes. In fact, changing your will is highly recommended if you experience a major life event, such as getting married, having children or the passing of a family member. You can change a will by executing an entirely new will that expressly revokes the old one or by changing a part of the will through a codicil.

I am still young. Do I even need a will? If you’re married and have children under the age of 18, executing a will becomes very important. If both biological and adopted parents of a child pass away, a will can be used to nominate guardians for the child. If a will doesn’t exist, the result can be a court battle between relatives to determine custody rights. If you’re young but don’t have children, a will can be used to distribute your assets to siblings, nieces, nephews or other family members who might not be your next of kin.

Do families really conduct will readings? One of my former classmates asked me this question years ago, and it’s always a fun one to answer. In my four years of practice, I haven’t heard of a family or attorney conducting a formal will reading. The will readings we see on television or in movies aren’t common occurrences. The laws surrounding wills are complex, and one misstep can undo your estate plan. If you are seeking to complete a will, consult an attorney familiar with drafting and executing wills.

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