What Is a Last Will And Testament?

A last will and testament is a legal document that identifies where your assets go once you have passed away.  There are three main questions answered in a will.  First, what happens to your assets when you die?  Second, who is the executor of your estate?  Third, who will be the legal guardians for your minor children?

In your will, you can identify where your property goes upon your passing.  You can be specific as to which assets passes to which beneficiary.  For example, “I want my house on Main Street to go to my brother, Steve”.  You can also be general as in “The remainder of my estate shall be distributed equally to my two children”.  You can create second levels of beneficiary such as “I want my Procter and Gamble stock to go to my sister, Betty if living and if not to my nephew, Tom”.

The executor named in a will is the person or entity that will conduct business on behalf of your estate.  They are appointed by the Probate Court and will have legal authority to sell you assets, pay your bills, file your taxes, and to make distributions as indicated in your will.  The executor can be a person like your spouse, child, or brother.  The executor can also be a bank or Trust company.  The executor has a fiduciary duty to follow the terms of your will and Probate Court supervises the process.

The guardian named in your will becomes responsible for your children who are under the age of 18.  The guardian exercises parental control and has the same parental power as if they were in fact the parent.  In Ohio you may name a parent, sibling, or friend not related to you or the child.  Ohio allows out of state guardians to be appointed.