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Wills, Trusts, and Probate

Making a valid will

In Ohio, you can make a valid will if you are at least 18 years old and of sound mind.  The will must be in writing and signed by you or by another at your direction and in your presence.  Two or more competent witnesses must witness your signature.

It makes sense to consult a local Ohio lawyer who does a lot of estate planning—as we do—to draft your will, so that you do not make costly mistakes or accidentally fail to accomplish what you intend.

Alternatives to a will

If you do not want your will and estate plan to be available as public record after your death, you may want to use a more private way to transfer your assets. We can advise you on several useful alternatives, including—

  • Life insurance policies
  • Cash gifts before death
  • Trusts
  • Joint tenancy of assets
  • Retirement plans
  • Individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  • Revocable living trusts
  • Gifts of assets before death
  • Payable on death (POD) bank accounts

Providing for young children and dependent adults

In case of the untimely death of their parents, young children are in no position to take care of themselves or of their parents’ estate.  The same holds true for an incapacitated adult who depended on the deceased adult for care.  These are situations where it makes the most sense to have a trust.

Trusts are legal arrangements that transfer ownership of property to a third party, called a “trustee.”  The trustee is responsible for administering the trust:

  • Controlling the finances
  • Deciding whether to sell or keep property
  • Managing assets such as real estate
  • Investing wisely in the interests of the beneficiary

There are a number of requirements that must be met for a trust to be valid, including the many complexities in the Ohio laws governing trusts.  For those reasons, we advise that you consult with us to make sure your trust is set up properly to provide optimum benefit to your heirs.

Estate probate and administration

Probate is the court proceeding in which final debts are settled and legal title to property is formally passed from the decedent to the heirs.  Probate cases are filed in the surrogate court of the county where the deceased person resided at death.  If there is a will, it usually is in the possession of an executor or some other person who must come forth and file a petition for probate.  If there is no will, then somebody must ask the court to be appointed administrator. The judge then decides that the will is valid or deals with any objections or claims anyone else may bring against it—and then admits the will to probate.

Our firm handles probate matters, dealing with the legal processes of paying debts and distributing assets after the person’s death.  It is best to work with us now to set things up for the asset distribution you want and to minimize the hardship to your family at the time of your death.

Experienced and personal legal services throughout Northeast Ohio

For caring and personalized legal assistance with wills, trusts, and probate in Ashtabula, Lake, Trumbull, Geauga, Mahoning, and Cuyahoga counties, call Northeast Ohio’s premiere law firm, Andrews & Pontius, LLC, at 440-998-6835 or contact us online.


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