Call (614) 733- 9999 For a Free Consult

The Incomplete Will: The Legal Issues Concerning “Do-it-yourself” Will or Trust Kits in Ohio

The Incomplete Will: The Legal Issues Concerning “Do-it-yourself” Will or Trust Kits in Ohio
July 10, 2020 Shannon Dawes
Columbus Ohio estate planning attorney

Perhaps a loved one heard about a “do-it-yourself” will or trust kit on the radio or from an online advertiser. This loved one knew the importance of creating a will, and desired to have the certainty and peace of mind a will could provide, but balked at the prospect of paying what they perceived to be exorbitant lawyer’s fees. They followed the instructions or directions provided and were so proud that, with a little hard work and a commitment to pay as little as possible for estate planning services, they finally have a will.

Unfortunately, after the loved one’s passing, family members review the will and are saddened to learn that the will did not cover many important issues. No executor or successive executor is named, there are no provisions stating what is to happen with certain items of property, or a family member expecting a share of the inheritance is not mentioned at all.

Incomplete Wills are a Serious Problem

Wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents that omit critical terms and provisions are not limited to those produced by do-it-yourself kits. Inexperienced attorneys who do not regularly draft these documents or who are not familiar with the statutory requirements for estate planning documents may also craft papers for clients that will not stand up to a challenge in probate court. Oftentimes, the errors and omissions in these documents do not become apparent until after the testator or creator of the document has passed away. By this time, of course, it is too late for any changes to be made.

Statutory Terms Fill in Missing Provisions

In some cases, a court asked to interpret the terms of a will or power of attorney may “fill in” missing provisions. For example, if a will mentions three children of the testator should receive the testator’s property, but does not mention how the testator’s property is to be divided among those children, a court may presume that the testator intended to divide their property evenly among those three children. This is because Ohio’s probate code states what is to happen to a decedent’s property if the decedent had children but did not leave a will. In such a case, the court simply substitutes the statutory provisions for those that might be missing.

When There are No Statutory Terms

In the event that a will is missing a crucial term but there is no statutory substitute, the court will likely need to conduct a hearing and receive evidence before deciding how to proceed. This may happen, for example, if a will does not specify an executor or estate administrator. In this situation, the court would allow an opportunity for interested parties (heirs and beneficiaries of the decedent) to submit suggestions for who ought to serve as the decedent’s executor. The court will then enter an appropriate order.

Avoid Needless Hassle and Headaches with an Experienced Ohio Estate Planning Lawyer

No one is perfect. However, even “innocent” mistakes or omissions in your estate plan can cause considerable headaches and troubles for your loved ones after you pass. You may be able to avoid mistakes in the estate planning process by retaining the services of an experienced attorney familiar with how to draft these sometimes-complicated documents. Dawes Legal, LLC possesses the knowledge and experience to help you prepare a comprehensive estate plan that provides you and your loved ones with certainty in the event of your untimely passing. We can also review an existing will or trust you might have and provide advice on ways your estate plan might be strengthened or improved. Call our Columbus, Ohio office at (614) 733-9999 and schedule an estate planning consultation with us.