Frequently Asked Questions’s About Estate Planning in Ohio

Why should I get a Will?

A Last Will and Testament is necessary or desirable legal document for any person who has children and/or even a minimal amount of assets. Ohio and most states have intestate succession laws stating where the assets will go if there’s no Will. The state’s law may not line up with your actual intentions.  A Will lets you be specific about your intentions.  Further, in a Will, you are able to designate who the executor of your estate should be.  Parents of minor children can state in the Will whom they want to become guardians of their children.  Absence of a Will can cause arguments in families about details that the Will could have otherwise specified, making it very hard to remain close after a loved one dies.

Who Decides Who the Executor will Be?

Ideally, you do this by stating who in your Will. If you don’t nominate your Executor in a Will, the Probate Court has to appoint an Administrator instead.  Various family members may fight with each other in and out of court over this, wasting much time and money.

Is a Fidelity Bond Required to Administer an Estate?

Most states, including Ohio, won’t appoint someone to be the Executor or Administrator of an Estate until they provide a fidelity bond from an insurance company.  Obtaining the bond is often difficult because the insurance companies require the applicant for a bond to have an extremely high credit score and a large financial net worth.  Thus, a honest person of modest means who would make a reliable executor, has been unable to serve because of inability to obtain a bond.

Who Determines Who Will be the Guardian of My Minor Children?

Another reason a Will is desirable is for parents of minor children.  In our legal tradition, the Will is the document in which parents are expected to state their intention as to guardianship of their minor child if they die unexpectedly.  Absent a Will containing a guardianship designation, surviving families can argue and litigate about the matter, hurting the children, and leading to hard feelings and endless expense.

What is the difference between a Will and an Estate Plan?

A Will is a Last Will and Testament all by itself.  The better practice nowadays is for the attorney and client to work together to complete additional documents besides the Last Will and Testament.  These additional documents are of further help to the client and their family when there are health crises and at the end of life.  In O’Reilly Law’s standard estate plan package, the additional documents include a health power of attorney, a living Will, and financial power of attorney, and a letter stating your intentions with regard to funeral arrangements, burial, and/or cremation.

Why Should I Get a Durable Power of Attorney in my Estate Plan?

Most people do not die suddenly. They become more fragile and less able to do things for themselves as they age. During such times, having loved ones available to help manage one’s finances is either desirable or necessary. A certain kind power of attorney, often called a Durable Power of Attorney, authorizes a loved one to assist with managing your finances, and is best prepared by a skilled attorney. Without such a power of attorney, family members argue about who should have these duties and it often becomes necessary to pursue an expensive and controversial guardianship proceeding.

Should I Get a Health Care Power of Attorney & Living Will?

The health care power of attorney and living will documents are quite necessary.  During a health crisis, doctors and hospitals cannot act efficiently if there are family arguments about who speaks for the person who is ill.  The health care power of attorney identifies who has these duties.  The living will clarifies your wishes on whether to place a do not resuscitate order into effect if your doctors conclude death is near.  The documents also allow you to state your own wishes on the thorny matter of what care you want to be provided or withheld if you are in a permanently unconscious state. We have seen unfortunate instances where family members are no longer on speaking terms because there were no documents stating who has the right to make these difficult decisions.

Why Would I Want to Get Funeral Instructions as Part of My Estate Plan?

We have seen many tragic instances where the children of the family are not speaking to each other anymore because of disagreements about how the funeral should be conducted and who should have what tasks in regard to the same.  The funeral instructions document lets you designate in a legally binding manner who should be in charge of your funeral, as well as where you wish to be buried, whether you wish to be cremated, and whether or not you want calling hours, a church service, and the like.

Why shouldn’t I just get a less expensive Will from a website?

Legal websites use canned sets of questions to plug answers into a template document.  It is an impersonal experience and does not result in a document customized to suit your own unique family and financial situation.  At O’Reilly Law Offices in Pickerington, Ohio and Worthington, Ohio and at similar practices you can sit across from the lawyer and discuss the many questions the process entails. More care and effort can thereby be put into tailoring your documents to precisely suit your financial and family situation.

How do I know if a Legal Documents Website knows the laws of Ohio or my State?

You don’t, there is no assurance from the average legal website. The company may be based in one state but trying to sell work in all 50 states, they may actually not have any knowledge of the local laws of Ohio or wherever else you live. If you purchase an on-line Will that does not meet your State’s legal requirements, it may not be accepted as enforceable by the Probate Court.

How Can I Hold a Legal Documents Website Accountable for Poor Work on my Estate Plan?

It is very unlikely that you will be able to hold a website legally accountable for poor work. The Terms and Conditions of Service for most sites are chock-full of disclaimers of any responsibility. The Bar in each state is regulated at the state level and legal websites are based elsewhere, so it is very hard for the State Bar in say, Ohio, to do anything to regulate a website based in say, California.  Again, this is why it is best to work with an experienced attorney in your area.

Do You Know of Any Examples of the “What Can go Wrong with Getting a Will off of the Internet”?

An example from our experience is one in which a gentleman in Ohio obtained a Will from the internet and it accurately stated his intentions to leave everything to his three children.  But the form from the web said the Will should be notarized and did not call for there to be two witnesses.  Because Ohio law requires a valid Will to have two witnesses but no notary, the Probate Court refused to process that Will.  The estate then had to be done on an intestate basis, costing the family approximately three times more in legal fees and expenses than would have been required if the gentleman had obtained a proper Will from a local attorney.

I have a Power of Attorney Naming my Daughter to Manage my Finances, why do I need a Will?

Power of Attorney documents become null and void immediately on your death. If you want her to carry on in managing your affairs when you die, you have to name her executor in your Will.

I named my son as Executor in a Will, why do I need a Power of Attorney for him to help me with my finances?

An Executor has no powers under the law until you die.  If you want him to help in managing your affairs before you die you have to name him your agent or “attorney-in-fact” in a financial power of attorney, sometimes called a “Durable Power of Attorney.”

Are there any Famous Movies about Botched Estate Plans or Wills

See this link:

Are there any Famous Books about Botched Estate Plans or Wills?

Bleak House, by Charles Dickens – the saga of an estate in litigation for 20 years or more.  The entire value is expended on legal fees.

Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain – see the Chapters about skullduggery in an Arkansas family over settling an estate in a locale with no Probate Court, and the feud that ensues.    This is why we have Probate Court.