The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Finally create a trust and will

We don’t like to think about it. But this is important for you and your family.

Pat Kastner

We put off making a will for obvious reasons. “You’re talking about your own mortality when you sit down with an estates and trusts lawyer,” says Bruce Johnson, emeritus professor of law in Moritz College of Law. Yet mortality is on our minds right now. “I think crises like these present a good opportunity for people to think about this and actually do something about it,” Johnson says.

You aren’t required to see a lawyer, but you probably should.

“It’s very easy to go online now to get forms — there’s nothing illegal about doing it yourself. But I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Johnson says. “There are enough quirks in the law that it’s easy for a layperson to make a mistake. And the mistake isn’t evident when they do a DIY will from an online source. When they die, then the mistake comes roaring out.”

A lawyer will talk to you about more than just a will.

A trust — a form of property ownership in which a trustee manages property for beneficiaries — can be created and set in motion while you’re living. A will — a document giving property to beneficiaries — takes effect only upon a person’s death. It’s also now standard for a trusts and estates lawyer to talk to clients about medical directives, including health care power of attorney, which designates authority to make life-saving decisions if you can’t.

You could save your family a lot of pain, time and money.

“This happens to be an area of the law that generates a disproportionately large amount of litigation. It’s a combination of family dynamics and money — and it doesn’t have to be a lot of money. People will fight over this; families will fall apart over this,” Johnson says.