Will is a shorthand term for Last Will and Testament. A Last Will and Testament is different from a Living Will—which is a health care advance directive. These terms are sometimes confused in conversation. It is important so keep them separate in your mind.

Think of a Will as a backstop. It is the document that will control who gets your assets after you die.  Having a Will, without any other planning, will not keep you from having to go to probate court. Some say that a Will is your ticket into probate court. Though, the probate court also administers estates for those who do not have a Will.

The Will is also where you name an executor. The executor is the person who, with probate court supervision, ensures that the wishes in your Will are carried out. It’s very important to consider who will be the executor because the executor has control over your assets and there is always the potential that the executor can abuse that control. If you have previously drafted a Will and have come to find out that your chosen executor may not be as trustworthy as you once thought, it is time to update that Will and name a new executor.

You can name a guardian for minor children in a Will. In the event of a tragic death of two young parents, the last thing you would ever want is a fight between two grieving families over who will raise the children.

In Ohio, a surviving spouse has the superior right to administer the estate of the decedent spouse if there is no will. In a situation where the decedent leaves behind a spouse and children who are not children of that surviving spouse, the will can name one of children as executor and avoid the difficult situation where the children could begin a bitter fight with the step parent.

A Will allows your executor to serve without bond. There may be some instances where the Probate Court will still require a bond, but not having the bond requirement may make things simpler for the person administering your estate.

If you die without a Will, the person who administers your estate must be an Ohio resident. In a Will, a named executor can be a non-Ohio resident. So if you want someone who lives out of state to administer your estate, you need to create a Will.