It’s Raining Legal Freebies

Lafe Tolliver

By Lafe Tolliver, Esq
Guest Column

Yes, it is that time of year again when I open up my goodie bag and let it rain…legal freebees!

This time I will concentrate on a single legal freebee that can follow you beyond the grave…your will (or lack of one!).

You would be amazed, or maybe not, at the number of people who yak…yak..yak to me about making a simple will but yet, for various reasons, fail to do so; and I then get the call from the puzzled or grieving family about the “infighting” that is happening because good ol’ Mom or Dad assumed that the kids would be nice to each other and not fight like alley cats over who gets what of their properties and goodies.

How many Thanksgiving dinners and birthdays have been ruined because family members refuse to sit down and listen to each other because they thought that they knew what Mom or Dad wanted about who got the house or the car or the bank account balance or that diamond encrusted ring.

How many stories I have heard about what Mom or Dad intended when they were alive as to who was to get the old Chevy car, the IBM stock, the beautifully carved breakfront or the antique collection of silver spoons!

But yet, when they pass away with no written declaration of their intentions, “All H*ll can break loose” when Lakisha comes in from Houston and takes the silver set or when DeMarcus rolls up with a tow truck and vanishes with the antique Coup DeVille.

And how could anyone forget that it was sister Donasthazeia who, by herself, took care of Mom for years and no one else lifted a finger, much less contributed any money for her upkeep and welfare!

Of course, she feels she is entitled to raid the bank account and take the forty-five thousand dollars account balance and quickly vanish to parts unknown.

Well, if you read my legal freebees about a will, maybe, just maybe you can avoid the trauma of family members raiding the home and ransacking the cupboards and drawers as if it is a free looter’s night out!

So, here we go!

(1) A will can be as long as a five-hundred-page novel or as short as three paragraphs. It all depends upon the writer of the will.

(2) In Ohio, a written will must be witnessed by two persons who actually see the writer of the will sign her or his name to the document.

(3) It does not have to be notarized.

(4) If a will is challenged, it is normally on the grounds that someone unduly influenced the will writer to say things that normally would not have been said or granted to a person named in the will or that a fraud was committed to have the will signed. Tough to prove, but it can be done.

(5) You do not need an attorney to draw up a will. Make sure it is in writing and signed by a competent person (is breathing and knows what day it is and who is who and what they have that they are passing on to others) in the physical presence of two adult witnesses who are not to receive anything out of the will.

(6) Yeah, you need to date the will and placed the signed names and addresses of the two witnesses at the end of the will, in a place after the will writer signs it.

(7) To save a lot of grief, remember, you can place on your accounts and insurance policies the names and addresses of the persons who you wish to receive those funds (you can even dictate the percentage of what they are to receive). This is done by a simple form obtained from the bank or pension fund or insurance company.

(8) You want to bypass probate, you say? By doing the above (7), those assets do not go into probate court, but since they are a part of a contract, those goodies go directly to the named beneficiaries.

(9) If you want to sound hip and cool, tell the banker that you want a T.O.D. (transfer on death)

or a P.O.D. form (payment on death) to be part of your bank or pension or insurance records.

Again, no probate court proceedings regarding those funds!

(10) Want to change your mind about a will that you executed 20 years ago or even last week? Simple. You will execute what is a codicil or an addendum to your will and you sign and date it in the presence of two signing witnesses and place that document with your will papers.

(11) Worried about unscrupulous family members finding your papers and making off with them? Not a problem. Have your original will placed in the local probate court vault for a small fee for safekeeping purposes. Now, you can sleep like a baby at night knowing that

LeMarre or Raydunshunda will be out of luck snooping around the house.

(12) To save money, consider making a joint will with your spouse! Two wills for the price of one! How better does that get! You simply got to make provisions that when you both die at the same time or within 30 days of each other, who gets your worldly fortunes and goodies.

Well, that is enough for now. If you need samples of the above, simply send me a non-traceable money order for $83.54 (includes shipping and handling) and I will meet you at a local park to exchange the documents for the dough. Whatta deal!


Contact Lafe Tolliver, attorney, at