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The importance of having a will

Ohio residents might be interested in learning more about wills. An estate plan can benefit people at all economic levels, because it ensures that any assets remaining after a person's death will be distributed according to his or her wishes. Without a will, a person's estate may be handled according to applicable jurisdictional rules, which does not guarantee the preferred distribution of assets.

A valid will observes several rules. A person must be 18 or older and of sound mind when their will is written, and the will must be clearly identified as such, must name an executor and must be signed in the presence of at least two witnesses. Notarization is not required, but it can protect against claims that the will is invalid. The choice of executor is important, because this person will be responsible for settling the estate, which includes taking an inventory of property, appraising and distributing assets, paying taxes and settling debts.

Another key element of the will is the choice of beneficiaries. Primary beneficiaries are the first-choice recipients of assets. It is wise also to choose secondary beneficiaries who can inherit in the event that the primary beneficiaries are deceased or do not meet inheritance criteria. Other forms of assets, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and home and car deeds, require designating beneficiaries as well.

Attorneys may be helpful to clients in preparing a will that adheres to state guidelines and ensures a preferred distribution of assets. They might also help clients who are heirs of an estate but who may have concerns about how the will was established.

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