If you have ever written a will, perhaps you remember thinking as you wrote it that it was truly your "last" will and testament, to be stored away and not retrieved until your death. Times change, however, and so do people, relationships, and feelings; oftentimes, this requires that you revisit your will to make sure it reflects your wishes.
If you feel that a change is required for your own will, or perhaps for the will of a loved one, knowing how to modify an Ohio will requires a bit of investigation. When you need to modify a will in Ohio, you should consider several matters to ensure that your modified last will and testament carries out your intentions.
What Are the Rules on How to Modify an Ohio Will?
Ohio's legislation in Chapter 2107 of the Ohio Revised Code covers the subject of wills and, specifically, the following:
- What a will is;
- Who a testator is (person making the will);
- Who may make a will;
- How wills can be made;
- Who can contest whether a will is valid; and
- What the associated time limits for contesting a will are.
Thus, the Ohio Revised Code is a great place to start to learn about wills in Ohio. What is noticeably absent from the law, however, is how to change an Ohio will. If you need information on this seemingly simple subject, you may find that looking at the law does not provide enough guidance.
When You Need to Modify a Will in Ohio: Considering Codicils
You may not find the distinct steps for modifying a will in Ohio in the Ohio Revised Code, but that does not mean you cannot modify or revoke a will; it just means you will have to determine how to do it.
One way a will can be modified or revoked is by using a codicil. A "codicil" is another word for an amendment, addition, or supplement to a will. Just like an amendment can change a contract, a codicil can be used to change one or more parts of an existing will. However, it should be noted that codicils are not used as often as they used to be because of the advancements in word processing.
In Ohio, the biggest thing to remember with a codicil is that it needs to comport with all of the formal requirements of a regular will in order to be valid. In this way, it is not any easier than writing a whole new will, and you may want to consult with an Ohio estate planning attorney to determine whether it is better to revoke your original will, write a new will, or modify your original will by use of a codicil.
Will and Codicil Requirements When You Need to Modify a Will in Ohio
The requirements of a codicil are the same as those for a will and are found in the Ohio Revised Code section on wills, which requires a will to meet these conditions:
- Made in writing (except for oral wills);
- Signed at the end by the testator (or by some other person in the testator's conscious presence and at the testator's express direction); and
- Attested and subscribed to in the conscious presence of the testator (by two or more competent witnesses who see the testator subscribe or hear the testator acknowledge the testator's signature).
These are the will requirements for Ohio, but you should also consider whether you will be moving to another jurisdiction anytime in the future. You will want to be sure you comply with that state's requirements, too.
The Alternative: Revoking a Will in Ohio
Sometimes, modifying a will in Ohio is not enough, to carry out your wishes. This might be the case if you are considering more than minor changes, although, what constitutes "minor changes" to one person might mean "major changes" to another.
The Ohio Revised Code covers the ways for revoking a will in Ohio, including the following types of revocation:
- By the testator by tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying it with the intention of revoking it;
- By some person, at the request of the testator and in the testator's presence, by tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying it with the intention of revoking it;
- By some person tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying it pursuant to the testator's express written direction;
- By some other written will or codicil, executed as prescribed by a specific section of the law; or
- By some other writing that is signed, attested, and subscribed in the manner provided by Ohio law.
Final Considerations for How to Modify an Ohio Will
It is recommended that estate plans be reviewed every three to five years and whether you decide that a codicil is right for your situation or that a complete revocation is needed, you should store your will, codicil, and any other estate planning documents in a safe place. It is important that someone knows where these documents are stored and that they are accessible.
To learn how to modify an Ohio will and to make sure you are following all of the legal requirements, contact Ohio estate planning attorney Anna Price by phone at 304-523-2100 (or 866-617-4736) or by completing Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC's online contact form.